Category Archives: Writing

#26 Rachel Bach’s Fortune’s Pawn

Well met, my friends!

A few years back I was interested in how many words per day people (both professional authors and hobbyists) are writing. My google search led me to Rachel Aaron’s blog “How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day”, which contains some fantastic pieces of advice. I also recommend reading another of her blog posts called “How I Plot A novel in 5 Steps”.

Curious about her professional works, I checked out the sample chapters of her book Spirit’s End. Unfortunately I exposed myself to some spoilers, but I bought all five books in the series nonetheless, instead of just reading the final installment. Currently I am on book two, but am very much looking forward to the final installment due to that awesome excerpt.

Her latest book “Fortune’s Pawn”, which will be released on the 5th of November 2013, is a departure from the fantasy genre. As far as I understood it, it’s a science fiction story with the unusual approach of not having a villain. Of course that doesn’t mean that it’s a book about nothing, I’m sure there are other obstacles and points of conflict to keep the reader entertained and to move the plot forward. When you look at the cover, you’ll notice that it says “Rachel Bach” instead of “Rachel Aaron”: in order to differentiate between her light hearted fantasy books written as Rachel Aaron, her publisher deemed it better to use a different name for her science fiction novels. I wouldn’t have handled it that way, as I believe in a uniform brand identity – this is also the reason why I did not use my youtube channel from 2006, but started a new one with the name kaiherbertz. But what do I know, perhaps keeping genres separated does serve the purpose of not alienatíng readers.


Anyway, right now Rachel Aaron / Bach is running a contest to win her book “Fortune’s Pawn”. The details can be found in her blog post. Since I am going to buy the book on release anyway, I plan to put the signed book, should I happen to win one, into my treasure chest as a miscellaneous prize to be won when I run a contest sometime in the future.

You can find Rachel Aaron / Bach on her website, her blog and her twitter account.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,


#24 Some NaNoWriMo news!

Well met, my friends!

There are a few news regarding NaNoWriMo:

1. Today (actually Friday the 11th of October – I passed midnight writing this…) I found out that Patrick Rothfuss, the author of “Name of the Wind” and “The Wise Man’s Fear” is giving a pep talk sometime during NaNoWriMo. I’m excited! In other news, today he wrote a blog post, celebrating his 10000th piece of fan mail. I commented on it on the blog post and received a reply! That actually made my day. Here’s the photo of me and Pat Rothfuss in May 2009 – I was a spoilsport and couldn’t do serious :D


2. Tomorrow (Saturday the 12th of October) I’m meeting up with some of the German NaNoWriMo people at the Unperfekthaus in Essen. Although NaNo hasn’t officially started, it’s good to meet old and new people, put the finishing touches on “Age of Torridan” and if there’s time outline November’s novel. Once more, I am excited.

3. The third exciting news is that Chris Kelworth is running a segment on his blog called the “NaNoWriMo spotlight”, where he interviews fellow NaNoWriMo participants. I’ve already received the interview questions and will send him my answers this weekend. Once the spotlight with my answers is up, I’ll link to it here.

Pursue your dreams and see you next time,


#22 NaNoWriMo warm up!

Well met, my friends!

At the beginning of this month, the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) cleaned up their message boards – all the old threads were deleted and the layout got a major overhaul.

For anyone unaware, the NaNoWriMo is a recurring contest: every November, people around the world (so it should actually be International, but I guess it started in the USA first and besides, InaNoWriMo doesn’t sound as nice) attempt to write 50000 words of fiction. Last year I participated for the first time, but A) I did not manage to reach the 50k and B) I broke the rules from the start by working on “Age of Torridan”, instead of beginning a new project.

Several people from the Day[9] community are taking part and added me to their buddy list. My friends from the write-ins last year have already contacted me: it looks like everybody is equally excited!

I am a bit behind on the first draft of “Age of Torridan”, but still hope to finish it this month. Ideally I would like to get the draft done a few days in advance, so that I can outline this year’s NaNoWriMo novel. We’ll see how it goes. I will be updating on the blog in any case.

One of my NaNoWriMo buddies already set up a thread on the boards regarding an early write in. Although that won’t count towards the 50k, it’ll still be awesome to meet in October for a sort of warm up.

Are you participating in this year’s NaNoWriMo as well? If so, please share the address of your blog and/or your NaNoWriMo account in the comments :)

Pursue your dreams and see you next time.

#16 Sword & Laser anthology submission

Today, Veronica Belmont announced that the Sword & Laser anthology entries have been picked. The Sword & Laser people have received about a thousand submissions and picked twenty. Unfortunately my story did not make it into the top 2%.

After revisiting it, there are a lot of things I’d write differently, but it is too late now. Nevertheless, if you are interested in the story, here is a PDF version: Urban Genie PDF

On a whim, I have also decided to create an audio version of it. I hope you don’t mind the accent and the occasional mispronounced word too much ;)

MP3 audio file

Reading it out loud helped me identify awkward sections, so perhaps I should use that method during the revision phase.

Onward to the next project!

#13 Writing sessions

Dear all,

it’s really difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when I started writing, but as I mentioned in the first entry, I took it a bit more seriously in the early 2000s, when Wizards of the Coast ran a few open calls for their AD&D book series. In those open calls, they told you what the book was about (one was “Maiden of Pain” about a cleric of some sadistic goddess and the other was “War-torn” set in the then newly created Eberron universe) and you had a month to write a ten page chapter and a one page synopsis of your whole novel. The winner received a contract with an advance of a few thousand dollars (can’t remember the exact figure, since I did not win. I think it was 5000$) and one year of time to write the book. Obviously the author would also get royalties once the amount of royalties exceeded that advance.

Anyway, those contests always invigorated me to write. Now that I think about it, I do remember that I actually started my novel before the open call. However, I also didn’t really start the novel back then. You see, in those days, some thirteen years ago, I wrote a few pages, decided they were crap, set them aside and didn’t look at them for another year. Next year I’d trash what I wrote and started anew. Still, for the sake of argument, let’s say that I started (late) in 2000, when I was 23 years old.

In the wake of the open calls, I came across the forward motion writing community and from there I found Holly Lisle’s website. She had a free e-book on writing called “mugging the muse” on her website, which I enjoyed reading. It contained a lot of useful advice presented in an interesting way, which compelled me to look at her other books on writing. I’d link to it, but after she redesigned her website, she decided to bundle it as a free goody with every purchase :(

Anyway, I then bought all her stuff on writing (my #1 recommendation there is “how to write page turning scenes”).

With my passion rekindled I made the first real effort to finish my book in 2008: In three months I wrote 25000 words. Unfortunately the workload of the PhD picked up, so I had to set aside the book once more, adding a few hundred words here and there.

In June 2011 I’ve made a deal with my best friend that we would meet up regularly and work on our respective hobby projects. Originally we wanted to meet every other week, but sometimes one of us didn’t have time, so we decided to meet once a week. That way, we figured it would work out to every other week, due to the need to cancel every once in a while. Instead, we’ve gradually increased the amount of sessions. If you have someone else to spur you on like that, I highly recommend those weekly sessions. The other person doesn’t even have to write a novel. In our case, my friend is working on his poems.

So disregarding the false starts, I’ve worked on this book since 2008 (more or less), but due to the interruption of several years, I would consider 2011 to be the actual start date.

For about a month now, we’ve added more writing sessions during the week, to complement our regularly scheduled weekend sessions. However, since I am living in Wachtberg and my best friend is in Düsseldorf, these are “remote” sessions: each of us logs in to Skype from 20:00 to 22:00 and works on their projects. At the moment it is a bit tricky, as there are urgent deadlines at work, preventing me from attending the sessions (I need to do some sensititve measurements that I can only do in the evenings), but in principle I do not want to let this become the norm, as there is always an excuse not to write. It’s important to stick to the planned sessions, if I want to finish the first draft of the book this year.

Long story short, the old piece of advice that if you want to be a writer, you need to sit down and write, still holds true. As for the “how”, considering the above story, I suggest to start slow: Pick one day every two weeks and write for two to three hours on that day. Once that is comfortable, keep adding days until you’re on a daily routine.

If I manage to stick to the schedule, I would finish the first draft of the book in late November: There are currently 22 chapters left to re-write. I do have between 500 and 2000 words each on paper for those chapters, but assuming I need to completely rewrite them, that’d be 22*3000 words. If I’m writing at a slow pace, I get about 250 words done per hour, so that’s 264 hours. Afterwards, I have to revise twice: reading 300 pages means another 15 hours and writing ten thousand additional words would take 40 hours. In total that’s 374 hours, to which I’m adding an arbitrary margin of 26 hours.

With the daily sessions and some extra hours on the weekend, I may be able to sustain an effort of 20 hours per week. That would mean I’m done in late November. I’m assuming worst case stats, except for the hours I put in every week. Those might be a bit optimistic, but we shall see :)

All the best,


#6 Prior knowledge before writing, a rookie’s mistake?

26. March 2013

Hello everyone,

last week, Patrick Rothfuss, who is most famous for his novel “The Name of the Wind”, posted a new blog entry on his website. That in itself is nothing unusual – he’s frequently updating with long, well thought out articles. Hopefully one day soon I will get there.

However, one paragraph surprised me. The blog dealt with planescape torment and the current kickstarter campaign for its spiritual successor. This was not the point of contention. Nevertheless, here are a few words on that kickstarter campaign: I think it is odd that Guido Henkel, the producer of planescape torment, is not on board. In an interview, he stated that he is not even keeping tabs on the project. This is speculation on my part, but perhaps he’s simply too busy with his own projects. Be that as it may, the kickstarter campaign looks interesting and I for one will pay attention to it. Hopefully it reaches the stretch goal “Pat Rothfuss joins the design team!”

Back on topic, here is an excerpt of what Patrick Rothfuss wrote on his blog:

“March 12th

[…] most of the time, writing is a generative process. The story comes into being as it’s being written. It’s about discovery. Assuming you have to know what happens before you sit down to write is a rookie mistake. […]”

I actually do want to know what’s roughly going to happen in a scene, before I sit down to write it. Then again, I am a rookie, so it would make sense that I am in fact making a rookie mistake. I am not really in a position to argue with Patrick Rothfuss, even though I do not share his view that this is a mistake.

However, I am not alone in my view. Rachel Aaron, who has published multiple books (off the top of my head I can think of five) and who has written many more, is by no means a rookie. In her excellent blog post “How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day” she states: “If you want to write faster, the first step is to know what you’re writing before you write it.”

Of course, writing faster does not rule out that you are making a rookie mistake. If I understand her correctly, Rachel does not see this as a mere exercise to write faster. It is about writing more quality words in a given time span than you normally would. Thus, it is safe to argue that she does not consider this to be a rookie mistake.

Despite disagreeing with the premise, there are aspects I agree with:

1. Danger of overplanning – If you know everything beforehand, it may kill your desire to write the scene. Furthermore, if you are stuck in the planning stage, you may never get to the writing.

2. There is no one way to write a novel. The amount of planning varies from writer to writer. It may very well be that a rookie mistake for one writer could be a valid method for another.

3. Discovery is indeed important. As I said, I like to have an idea of what I am going to write. However, nothing I’ve pre planned is set in stone. There are many examples from my current work in progress where I wrote a scene, then realized that I omitted the inner workings as to why certain events transpired. When I thought about the solution, I came up with something that not only provided an answer, but was internally consistent and strengthened some of my characters. I had to go back and change things that didn’t exist in the original plan, so this element of discovery certainly shouldn’t be smothered by prior plans. Here is a simple example from my submission to the 2004 Wizards of the Coast War-torn open call. The protagonist was captured by a mad tinkerer. In my original plan, he was supposed to just break the chains that bound him. There is nothing special, nothing magical about overcoming that obstacle, not to mention that it is implausible. Instead, I came up with the universal tool – since Eberron is a fantasy world with magic, I figured that some tinker would have access to magical tools. Rather than carrying a heavy tool box, he just had one tool that he could reshape into another one, for example transforming a file into a hammer, by saying the name of the desired piece of equipment. At some point he is leaving it on his work bench and when the protagonist is alone, he commands the tool to repeatedly change shape, thereby causing it to essentially crawl across the work bench until he can reach for it. This new version of his escape makes more sense, shows some of the magic in the world and doesn’t feel as cheap as the original. Damn, now I want to revisit that story – perhaps at some point I will, although I need to strip all of the proprietary parts. It’s something to keep in mind, after the Sword and Laser Anthology submission is done and after finalising “Age of Torridan”.

So in a nutshell, some points I agree with, but I still disagree that prior knowledge is a mistake. It’ll be interesting to see whether I maintain this view or whether I have an epiphany once I’m not a rookie anymore.

In the unlikely event that a professional author happens to drop by, what is your opinion on this matter? Of course, everybody else is most welcome to chime in as well :)

Until the next time,


Edit: I’ve fixed a few typos, added a poll and made the headline less confrontational.

#4 Veronica has thrown down the gauntlet


Dear all,
yesterday, Veronica Belmont announced on her twitter account that the Sword&Laser show she is hosting together with Tom Merritt, is going to publish a fantasy and science fiction anthology. Actually, she announced it before, but as of yesterday it is possible to submit stories. The submissions stay open until the 15th of May 2013.
Even though this is going to delay progress on my current novel “Age of Torridan”, I’m nevertheless very excited about this opportunity. In a few hours, I am going to once again meet up for a writing session at the Unperfekthaus. This time I’ll brainstorm some ideas of what to create for the anthology.
For all the emerging writers (I picked up that term from Karen Miller’s blog, since I agree with her opinion that “aspiring writer” sounds like a wannabe) out there reading this, are you going to prepare a story for the sword&laser anthology as well? The gauntlet has been thrown down, let’s rise to the challenge :)
All the best,

#3 Writing Session at the Unperfekthaus

24. Feb. 2013

Hello everyone,

as some of you may know, I’ve re-started working on my novel in June 2011. Every weekend, I’m meeting up with my best friend Frank for a few hours during which he is perfecting his poems, while I am adding a page or two to my book. Typically we meet up in the city of Düsseldorf, but every once in a while we like to mix it up a bit. I’ve already hinted at it in my last blog entry – yesterday the commitment to our respective projects led us to the city of Essen. Specifically, we stayed at the Unperfekthaus for five hours.

It is quite an intriguing place – the entry fee entails as many non-alcoholic drinks as you would like, so in comparison to regular coffee places it is not expensive. They have this policy that as long as you are not barring any spectators, you may reserve a room free of charge for activities that are “interesting, creative and legal”. Since it was just Frank, myself and one of my writing buddies from NaNoWriMo, we didn’t need to reserve a room, but just found an empty table.

Here are some pictures that I took with my phone camera. The sign mentions that you don’t need to ask for permission, but that you should play on the guitar, if you feel like it.

The second picture is presumably skull pillar art.

I did manage to write another 400 words. It could have been more, but I was tired and decided to instead refill the well by reading a few chapters of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series. It’s an excellent and captivating fantasy story, set in a beautifully crafted, internally consistent, world. If you’re into fantays and haven’t read it yet, I can only highly recommend it.

As for my own story, the section I expanded dealt with one of the antagonists, who had to fight some vampires (not sparkling vampires, mind you. I still couldn’t help it, but have some blood suckers in my novel…) to further his agenda. It’s one of these things that’s going to annoy some readers – that particular antagonist is always doing interesting things, essentially stealing the lime light from the protagonist. Ah well, no use worrying about that now. Besides, I’m just having too much fun writing his chapters.

See you all later,


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