Moonlight on the high seas… The story of my third book, an overview, and what I did right! (~Part 1~)

Before we begin, I’d like to take this moment to thank any one of you reading this right now!


Today, my site’s just surpassed 400 views—not the biggest milestone, sure, but none of it was possible without you, yeah?

Whether you’re here for my talks on music or my discussions on writing, I love having you here all the same—It means a lot to me~!

Where do I plan to take this going forward…? I’m not entirely sure—BUT so long as I have the time, I think I’m content pushing through with the current schedule~

So whoever and wherever you are, new or returning viewer alike, just know that your time and ears mean everything to me, and I can’t thank you enough! (๑>◡<๑)

– 海咲むんだえ

Rules… to break or not to break…?

So today I continue the story of… well, where my writing journey currently is~!

To catch you up quickly if you missed this post, our timeline’s now in mid-January 2020, the pandemic was just around the corner, and my general fears at the time led me to… something new!

In the little break I took between my first two books and this one, I’d spent a lot more time watching reviews of god-awful books—to this day, this is something I still thoroughly enjoy~!

Among the lessons I learned from the likes of KrimsonRogue, Strange Æons, Caleb Joseph, Jenny Nicholson, and many more were:

  • Chemistry goes hand-in-hand with character voice; don’t force either.
  • Letting dialogue flow with minimal tags is generally more immersive.
  • A story without a clear structure can come off as too disorganised to follow.
  • A protagonist who starts off as a terrible person and never develops is not particularly entertaining.
  • A protagonist without agency is not particularly entertaining.
  • Thorough editing fixes far more than typos, including character, plot, or scene rewrites, rearrangings, or outright removals.
  • Too little worldbuilding forces the reader to do too much work; too much worldbuilding allows the reader no opportunities to engage.
  • A consistent perspective is important; jumps or changes must be clear and not confusing.
  • Every detail and scene must be relevant, as irrelevant details may lead the reader to question, eventually, what the point was.

That’s not everything of course~

But remember when I said I’m not particularly a fan of hard, rigid rules?

I feel like I can think of exceptions where all of these rules don’t really apply, but that’s kinda missing their point—In a lot of the examples they reviewed, these were basically broken for no creative reason, so the end result we’d see was always… well, messy, to put it mildly (*´-`)

I still like to follow these as rules of thumb of course!

My personal philosophy with all things creative is basically:

Know why a rule exists before breaking it.

Let’s take for example, the note on too much worldbuilding!

That’s a mistake I still do nowadays—I’ll tell you more about it in our next post—but what if that’s just how our perspective character is?

Imagine like an architect or engineer whose job calls on them to pay attention to as many details as possible…

Or in more Western fictions, even military personnel and what not fall under this hyper-observant category too!

Sure, doing this will still take us good and careful execution, but if we can manage it, then that’s a rule broken effectively, yeah?

So… what about when rules are violated in much more amateur ways?

A nightmare on board…

After I felt my first two books were a bit beyond recovery, I took some advice I heard from some published authors: try and start somewhere a bit smaller!

My Garry’s Mod simulations I talked about before were what birthed my next idea, and this time, I actually had a bit of a clear direction!

I wanted a story that could stand alone in one book, help me develop in areas where I was still shoddy, and come out with something that may be presentable… so here’s the idea I came up with!

A couple board a luxurious cruise ship in search of leisure, but as the voyage sails on, they are embroiled in increasingly-worrisome events that put the safety of everyone on board in limbo.

As you can kinda gather, I was envisioning this book to be a character-focused thriller of sorts, where the protagonist couple would meet more and more people as time went on, all of whom seem equally-plausible as a part of the conspiracy!

I can promise you this—it was a very fun experience to write, and for fun, I can run you down some of the main characters!

  • Gideon Caden Goodwin – Our main protagonist: a wealthy, self-centred snob who slowly learns to be more attentive and active as danger builds up around him.
  • Lucia Cathryn Verity – A tech-savvy software engineer who adapts to become more resilient as external conflicts leave her with few confidants.
  • Thomas Jacob McClellan – A troubled, recently-divorced alcoholic desperate to rehabilitate himself, but also too bitter at how his life has turned out.
  • Harlan Milford – A lonely man with bipolar disease struggling to find himself accepted by friends and family, who see him as too volatile to support.
  • Franco & Bianca Cardona – A traveling Spanish couple unwittingly dragged into the conspiracy as their vacation turns sour.
  • Jackson Townsend & Fritjof Lång – A pair of security officers on board the ship whom the protagonists come to befriend as circumstances become increasingly-dire.

There were more minor characters too, like:

  • Terry Hartley, Ulrich Snyder, and Shannon Strickland – A high-profile jazz trio performing on the ship whose fame becomes a liability as they get forced along into the conspiracy.
  • Wilton Atwood – Lead Cruise Coordinator and reliable workaholic who is among the first to realise something is amiss.
  • Captain Marcus Kevin Maynard – The Captain of the SS Integrity who is more often seen spending time with his passengers than on the bridge.
  • Avery Westbrook – Another security officer who appears the most troubled by the unfolding crisis on the ship, despite Townsend & Lång dismissing him as being too paranoid.

I wrote far more characters than this, but these were the most important ones anyways!

My plot itself was basically a series of escalating events, starting with strange IDs and documents being scattered around, then someone being murdered, followed by a string of alcohol poisoning, mysterious arrests, and all the way to ammunition and weapons going missing just before the big attack!

But honestly… My description is way more interesting than what I actually wrote (*´∀`*)

As usual, I went wrong somewhere along the way, but instead of focusing on that today…

What exactly did I do better this time~?

“Take my rede…”

Firstly—I think I can proudly say that this novel turned out much better than my first two attempts, even if what I wrote is still a mess…

So- what exactly made it better!?

1. Listening to professionals!

This sounds really obvious… but it did take two failures for me to humble enough to realise that: Yep, I do need to take the word of those with experience!

Most of my references during this period were those reviewers I mentioned earlier! But I also followed a number of authors on blogs and what not to see what they had to say on the matter—Unfortunately I’ve long forgotten who they were, but I clearly remember popular names like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Haruki Murakami among people whose advice I not just listened to, but also tried to apply!

Will listening to these people immediately improve everything?

Well, never say never, right~?

But realistically, there probably won’t be any author whose advice you agree with 100%, and that’s alright!

In the end though, I’ve found that just trying anything you hear is not that bad of an idea~

For instance, an advice I heard early on from Murakami was to “write to discover”.

To summarise a bit, his advice was basically pantsing! To write mysteries and plot lines where we’re on the same page as our readers we don’t know how things will resolve, so we’re writing to find out!

Is this good advice though?

Welp—I’m not the judge of that really, but I personally agree with it a lot!

Even to this date, I only plan major beats like the ending or the climax—everything in-between? Heh, anything goes~!

2. ~Just doing things~

And that brings me to my second realisation… I just needed to keep writing and reading!

I like to believe that patience, dedication, and experimentation are keys to any kind of creative success—and even early on I had that belief reinforced by a lot of who I watched and listened to!

When we keep doing something, we just naturally get better, no?

Comparing this book to my first two, these are the improvements I noticed that came about from listening to advice + continuing to practice my writing!

  • Characters had more distinct voices, focuses, and motivations.
  • Characters had more importance and weren’t just extraneous!
  • Plot had more structure and intrigue.
  • Perspective was a lot more consistent.
  • Descriptions were more detailed and vivid, but not necessarily better.

These are where I feel I personally improved the most through practice, and while nothing was remarkable of course, it was an attempt nonetheless, and an attempt that not just showed I was learning, but that I also learned a lot from~!

3. Editing

…yeah (*≧∀≦*)

I did not edit my first two books at all—I swear I’m not joking, that was just how clueless I was about writing…

Now I still made a bunch of mistakes in editing, which I’d love to tell you about next time, but what matters for me is that I actually tried it for once! (^^;;

some of the typos I found in editing…

But here’s a question… how do we decide what to edit?

I made a big mistake here—I put my manuscript into online editors, and let them point out what exactly needed to be changed…

What happened was I ended up with a work that sounded more like a dissertation than an enjoyable work of fiction, and for a while, I thought this was alright, because if my work satisfies these online checkers, then that means I’m clear, right!?

4. Asking for feedback!

My short answer is… nope.

My conclusion nowadays is that grammar checkers are unreliable at understanding stuff like context, creative intentions, character voices, all these kinds of things—Yep, they can really help find typos, but I made a mistake in trying to rely on them for more than that…

But I found out soon enough thanks to one thing: I actually asked strangers for feedback!

I really don’t recommend how I went about it though… heehee (╹◡╹)

I discovered this forum called Jericho Writers, and ignoring all the rules, I signed up for an account, went by a male identity as J. G. Charleston, then dumped… 27,000 words in a post asking for feedback.

For context, users recommended somewhere around 300 words for adequate critique and what not, so to say that I overblew that is… kind of an understatement (*´∀`*)

Thanks to three very-kind users though, I did receive extremely-helpful breakdowns on what I did wrong and where I could improve, and given how early on in my journey this was, a lot of this advice has stayed with me through the years!

These three users were the ones who helped me realise how formal and cold my language was as a start, but they also gave me the mindset of questioning whether details I wrote were actually necessary, or if they were too extraneous and insignificant!

For example, one scene I wrote where my protagonist counted every single chair in a restaurant… Yep, I don’t know why I thought that was needed—草草草草草草

As the site was mainly comprised of users from the UK, they also pointed out some cultural and geographical mistakes I made, like how I assumed Canterbury was a coastal town… ♪(๑ᴖ◡ᴖ๑)♪

So unfortunately, I lost access to my account on that site after I forgot my email account’s password, and I haven’t really been back there since…

I really doubt those three users would recognise me here given how different I presented myself there, but in the slim chance they’re reading, hiya! And thanks for talking so much sense to me at a moment of overconfidence! ٩(๑❛ᴗ❛๑)۶

Across the channel…

Breaking down all of this for us is kinda cathartic in a way…

In my head, I’ve long just derided this third book as a mistake of sorts, but looking back?

For me anyways, I think it’s clear I learned a bunch of lessons from my previous mistakes, and that I had that determination to try and take what I could to a new level!

To my fellow amateur writers—I wanna know, what were your early days like~?

It’s funny how so many of us have similar goals, but the start of our journeys are always so diverse, aren’t they~?

Next week, on Monday, I’d love to share with you the other side of this story though…

Because there’s always still room for mistakes, ain’t there?

And given how long I’ve been rambling today—Heh, I thank you sincerely for staying around up to this point~!

‘Til next we meet, all the more love to ‘ya!

(Heh one more note~ Terry Hartley sharing a name with Wallace Hartley was a coincidence at first, but I did try and make the parallels more clear while editing! That band’s story will never not be legendary, if tragic (T.T))

2 thoughts on “Moonlight on the high seas… The story of my third book, an overview, and what I did right! (~Part 1~)

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