Writing: The Thing I’m Doing

By Shamus Posted Saturday Feb 19, 2011

Filed under: Projects 151 comments


For the past few weeks now readers have frequently observed that I’m not putting out very many words these days. Stolen Pixels is still on hiatus. Shamus Plays is ended. My weekly column is almost bi-weekly. I’m reviewing less games and in general saying less stuff here on the blog. A few people are under the impression that my reduced output is due to Josh and Mumbles writing stuff here. The thinking goes, if they were writing less, I’d be writing more. The same goes for video content – if there were less YouTubes, there’d be more words, right?

I wasn’t going to say anything about this yet, but I can’t have them taking the blame for my reduced output. The truth is, Spoiler Warning is what is keeping the blog from turning into one of those once-a-week kind of deals. The frustrating thing is that I’m doing a great deal of writing. You’re just not seeing it.

The world is full of people who are writing books, or who imagine they are writing books, or who hope to write a book. There is nothing more sad and worthy of pity than a man in the process of writing a book. He will tell you, if you sit still for it, how exciting and new and delightful the work will be… someday. But no matter how tantalizing the idea or how great the enthusiasm, the unfinished manuscript of an unpublished author is worse than worthless. It has negative value, and people must be bribed to read it. There is no end to the number of perfectly good books in the world, and so nobody is interested in a story that dead-ends after a hundred pages of typos, spelling errors, plot holes, and misplaced punctuation. The author’s labor disappears into a hole, a promise unfulfilled. Adding more labor only makes the promise bigger without making the book any more valuable as a work of fiction, until he finally types the words, “The End”. (At which point the book is finally worth nothing, and will begin to gain value based on his skill, luck, and appetite for self-promotion.) His self-worth is generally determined by his own opinion of the last three paragraphs he wrote, which creates an experience not unlike riding a roller coaster: Terrifying and nauseating.

But maybe that’s just me.

A book of young adult fiction – the first Harry Potter book, for example – generally weighs in at around 50k words. More typical books come in at around 80k to 150k. Above 200k and you’re venturing into Stephen King territory. My fanfiction novel was about 140k.

My book is currently about 60k words. I thought I would be nearing the finish line by now, but I’m really not even into the third act. The tale is growing in the telling. If writing a book is a gamble – and it is – then I’ve been playing this hand for a long time. I’ve been upping my bet a little bit each day, every time I’ve worked on the book instead of doing something else that might make us some immediate money and fend off our encroaching debts. I’ve put too much in to be able to fold, but I’m too terrified to put anything more in.

I hate to talk about the book. Once I reveal the work, there will be Public Expectations of its eventual release. If I fail, then my shame will be public as well. I’m fearful of trying to write with guilt and obligation sitting on my shoulders. My chair is uncomfortable enough as it is. But I don’t wish to torment you with mystery, either. So I will say a few small things about it, in hopes that your curiosity will be satisfied and you won’t form an unruly mob of internet people.

This book is intended for publication, for sale, for money. Beyond that, no details have been worked out. The book is set in and around quasi-historical London in 1885. A little bit of magic. A little bit of steamworks. I’d originally set out to make a work of comedy, but I lost control almost from the first paragraph and wound up with lighthearted adventure, with occasionally non-lighthearted parts. This is actually extremely fortunate.

One of my two main characters is undead, and I discovered recently that Yahtzee’s book Mogworld is about an undead character. I was terrified when I learned this. I’m already accused of “ripping off” Yahtzee more than I like, mostly because we have many similar opinions, produce content for the same magazine, and he’s way more famous than I am. I spend a great deal of time in his shadow, and two months into writing my book I discovered that I’m using what sounds like a highly derivative premise. I almost abandoned the work outright when I learned this.

I’ve read a synopsis of his book, and I’m reasonably confident they have nothing else in common. In terms of tone, setting, outlook, plot, and cast, the books have about as much in common as Star Wars and Mario. Okay, both deal with princess-rescuing, but I think there’s room for more than one author around this particular narrative watering hole. Still, I know this will be a subject of contention when it comes out. I dread the inevitable response from Yahtzee fans who will dismiss the thing as a “ripoff”.

I have no idea when it will be done, if ever. I cranked out 15k words on my first week on the project. Two weeks ago I managed just a few hundred words. Last week I managed 5k. Progress slows as the plot becomes increasingly complex, and as I need to stop and do research. She took aim and shot at the… wait a second. What kind of pistol would she have? Did they have rifling at that point, or were firearms still smooth-bore? And where would she have been keeping the pistol? How would an Englishwoman have carried a pistol in those days if societal norms did not discourage it? What would the pistol look like and how many shots would it have? Would this gunshot cause the horses to bolt? Arg! I’m supposed to be writing and I just blew four hours on Wikipedia!

I’m weeks away from finishing the story, even under optimal conditions. And after that comes proofing, publishing, and promoting, which is where the REAL work begins.

This is truly a terrifying experience. A mad scheme, doomed to failure and public humiliation, then followed swiftly by financial ruin.

But the hours are great. Wish me luck.


From The Archives:

151 thoughts on “Writing: The Thing I’m Doing

  1. Kasper says:

    From the bottom of my heart, good luck. And good for you for having the courage to do what many people, me included, can only dream of. If you want me to read the thing for you I’d be happy to and I would imagine I’m not alone in this.

  2. antsheaven says:

    Good luck, Shamus. I really enjoyed reading Free Radical, so I’m pretty sure I can look forward to this one.

    1. Specktre says:

      Yes I agree, Free Radical is very good, Shamus. Still in the process of reading it, but I believe I’m coming towards the end of the Second Act.

      At any rate, I wish you the best of luck with this book. I’ll pray for ya. :)

  3. Amarsir says:

    Yahtzee blogged about his book first.

    It’s good to hear what you’re up to Shamus. As one of those who just can’t get into Spoiler Warning I’ve certainly felt the content shift, but but your readers know it always indicates some larger project in the background. Even the ones we know of would have been fair justification.

    So good luck with the book. It’s a horribly tough industry, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re the next Terry Pratchett.

    1. Corylea says:

      So good luck with the book. It's a horribly tough industry, but I wouldn't be surprised if you're the next Terry Pratchett.

      Yes, exactly!

      1. rofltehcat says:

        Yeah, the way you describe it (undead character, 19th century London, a bit of humor) I immediatelly thought “I hope it will be like Ankh Morpork, just 200 years later”. I’ll be looking forward to it.

        Unfortunatelly, Pratchet isn’t all that healthy and young anymore so he doesn’t write as much :(
        So there is a real gap to fill, Shamus ;)

  4. Factoid says:

    This made me very happy to read. I am not much of a writer, but like many people I fancy trying my hand at it. I got engaged with a group of other writers and performers a few months ago on a short story collection. I haven’t written a short story in several years, but I wanted to believe I could make it work.

    The project has more or less stalled out as we all shirk our writing duties, but this is giving me some inspiration to start writing again.

    My particular story hasn’t really started taking shape yet. We’ve all agreed to work on “horror stories” which is completely out of my league, but something about that is exciting…writing outside my comfort zone.

    I’m trying to balance that by working in the Science Fiction genre which very much IS my comfort zone. But I find myself getting trapped in the minutia of backstory building. What kind of universe am I writing in? What sort of space ships do they have? How far in the future are we? How do they handle faster-than-light travel?

    That’s the fun part for me. The HARD part is deciding who my characters will be and what they will be doing. Not to mention how I will make any of that SCARY.

    After reading this I’m going to see if I can put together a few hundred words this weekend just to push through the blockages. The best advice I ever read about writers block is this:

    Give yourself permission to write something bad and go back later to fix it.

    1. MichaelG says:

      I’d like to see a horror SF — something really plausible. I’m thinking some kind of “beginning of the Singularity” thing set in current time. A company is designing faster AI’s using its current generation of AI. As generations progress, the thing becomes scary smart and starts solving really hard technical problems. People in the company realize whoever controls this thing has the world by the tail. Competing visions of what should be done with this power play out.

      There’s scope there for hard SF and AI research, corporate politics, horror (as people request various self-modifications from the AI, or when the AI starts to develop goals of its own), personal growth as people deal with the consequences of getting what you ask for, and lots of nerd character studies.

      Too bad I can’t really write dialog!

      1. Sumanai says:

        You could try writing it with someone who can do dialogue. Of course the challenge then would be to find someone who you can work with, as it can be difficult to get someone to draw the same mental image. But if it’s what you’d really like to do, and have the time to attempt, go for it.

  5. Electron Blue says:

    My NaNo project is still somewhere around 56k words and I’m convinced it’s about halfway done, but I just can’t put the time into it at the moment. Writing a book is terrifying, especially because once you’re done you know you’re going to go back and edit the hell out of it.

  6. Strangeite says:

    Shamus, I say this with the love of someone that has been reading your blog for years (which is a weird sci-fi futuristic kind of love we could never have imagined 20 years ago)…


    I click the advertisement that you reluctantly put on your blog (without any fan-fare) a couple of times a day, but you really need to allow those of us that can spare a few dimes to help you out while you are undertaking this new adventure in your life.

    Since your book is set in the 1880s, then I am sure you are aware of the concept of patrons funding the struggling artist. Well, let the community that you have cultivated over many years be your patron.

    I can’t promise that you will make a living from the Twentysided community’s genoristy, but we (yes, I know I can speak only for myself, but I don’t think I am alone) WANT TO HELP.

    Get off your high horse and realize you are an artist.

    1. Sydney says:


    2. DaveMc says:

      Well put, and thirded. I chip in a bit to support the existence of podcasts I enjoy, and I’d be happy to do the same for your writing, which I also enjoy. I think the point made above is key: think of it not as charity, but as patronage. (We promise to be patrons without being patronizing.) (Unless you think that particular ship has already sailed, in which case I apologize.)

      1. Shamus says:

        Okay. This is now on my to-do list.

        1. Sindisil says:

          Please, wherever it is on your list, move it *up*.

          Yours is one of the few sites I disable addblock on, and I click occasionally, but I’m just not into the whole ad thing. I’m sure I’m not alone.

          Keep the add spot for sure, but personally I’m keeping my eyes open for a chance to offer a small token of my thanks for the entertainment, information, and game design food for thought that you’ve shared with us for so long!

          As for the book … sold. Seriously. What you’re describing sounds like a steam-punk/urban fantasy pastiche. Humor mixed with a touch of drama (as in one of my favorite series – Brust’s Taltos books) closes the deal.

          When it’s available, you’ve got another sale here.

          1. mad_wolf says:

            clicking adds like a madman now….

            1. chiefnewo says:

              Clicking ads like a madman can actually be counterproductive these days. If the company responsible for the ads notices a lot of “empty” clicks coming from a site they can devalue the amount each click is worth or in the worst case pull the ads altogether.
              You’re better off only clicking on ads for things you might be interested in.

              1. Strangeite says:

                This is true. Luckily, the ads that appear for me (I hate tracking cookies) is for a gold and silver bullion dealer. Fortunately, it is the same site where I actually purchase my coins and have made purchases from the ad.

                Don’t go crazy with the clicks, but act responsibly.

          2. Gantidae says:

            There’s ads here? I disabled adblock here forever ago and I still never see any ads. I just figured there weren’t any.

            1. Falcon_47 says:

              I only see an EVE Online ad to right of the page, was wondering myself if there was something i was missing. I kinda hate that game but if it helps i’ll go “clicky” on it. Still a donate button would be much better…

        2. DaveMc says:

          Terrific! One more suggestion: if it’s possible to have a recurring version of donations, that would be helpful. I’m probably not the only person who might want to decide to contribute $X per month, and not having to remember to do that every month is a very good thing. I’ve visited sites that do this through Paypal, so I assume it’ll be offered as an option if you go through them.

    3. Paul Spooner says:

      That’s right! We’ve been enjoying your entertaining writing for years. Do us the honor of taking our thanks, in monetary form if necessary.
      Also, a P.O. box wouldn’t go amiss. I know a few people who would like to send you cool stuff if they got the chance.

    4. Volatar says:


      EDIT: Oh hey he already replied with a yes.

    5. Rustybadger says:


    6. Irridium says:


  7. Pat says:

    I’ve been reading your writings for a few years, ever since I stumbled across DM of the Rings. (Haven’t gotten around to Free Radical yet but it’s on my to-do list.) You have a talent for writing that can make anything interesting. I have no knowledge of or interest in coding, but I’ve read most of your coding articles and found them fascinating. I wish you good luck on your adventure into the world of proper book-writing and publishing.

  8. Zukhramm says:

    I’d love to write a book. I don’ think I ever will but I’m the kind of person that when listening to music wants to play it, when playing a game wants to make one and when reading wants to write.

    So good luck with the book, you definetely one customer in me already, if that helps making the “negative value” feel lessened.

  9. Eljacko says:

    As someone who is writing a book (or imagines he is writing a book) I found this article to be excruciatingly demoralizing. Of course, I come here to be demoralized, so kudos to you. Worst of all, my book is a fantasy novel, one of the most saturated, cliched, derivative genres of all time, so I’m pretty much screwed. It’s also self-indulgent, putting a round cherry of disappointment atop the ice cream sundae of failure in my dessert of labored metaphors.

    1. Tomulus says:

      Sounds delicious.

      1. Sumanai says:

        The book or the metaphor?

  10. Someone says:

    Best of luck to you and your book. Also, you can console yourself with the fact that you DO have a fanbase, which is more than you can say for a lot of upstart writers. And you produce other content, content which, aside from being fun to make, will serve an actual, fiscally practical purpose of getting more people interested in your work.

  11. StranaMente says:

    I recently read this blog post from Neil Gaiman, about being an author and blogging about your stuff, and the problem with internet and writers, I warmly suggest you take a gander at it.

    That said, I’m glad to know you’re working. I was afraid that not having deadlines was disrupting your creativity. As I learned myself, having restrictions is the best way to channel your inspiration. The moment I’m free to do whatever I want, I don’t know where to begin (on this subject I read an exercise against the writer block, instead of trying to make something up from nowhere, you should picture yourself in a cell with no way out, and then try to write about a way to get out of it; it actually works…).

    And seriously, you should put a paypal button. I didn’t even notice you put up the ad, as I usually use adblock. And I know that the license you sign when you put ads, doesn’t allow you to talk about it.
    I’d really prefer to give YOU money than let them give them to you, as I appreciate YOUR work, not theirs.

    1. Chargone says:

      having actually read paypal’s terms of service and seen the way they regularly screw people over, all i can say is ‘do not do this!’… well, not if you can find a viable alternative anyway.

      the only thing stopping paypal from just taking everyone’s money and running is that people would stop giving them money if they did.

      technically you ‘buy’ paypal credits then they buy stuff and give it to you, removing the credits. it’s that whole fake currency thing companies love to use to put the income on their balance sheets Now rather than when you actually buy… but it Also means that technically you bought a Product… a product that comes with all sorts of limitations that amount to ‘paypal does what they want’… which means they are under no obligation to give your cash Back. as a buyer, anyway. as a seller i’ve seen them freeze people’s funds for having the word ‘jesus’ in the description of the product sold (it’s solicitation, apparently. never mind that the entity in question is a christian charity.) then there’s the whole wikileaks ridiculousness… just for the most obvious ‘top of the head’ examples.

      so, yeah. donations, goood. paypal? very very un-good.

      1. TehShrike says:

        Meh – fiat currency is fiat currency, whether you’re putting your naive trust in a government run by companies, or a company run by people.

        The trick is to turn your magical wish-money into video games and expensive video cards before it becomes worthless.

        1. Dys says:

          Not really. There are significant differences between government issued physical currency, bank held digital currency and paypal credits.

          The value of physical currency is determined largely by what people will give you for it. The government guarantee is largely irrelevant.

          Banks have rules about what they can do with your account, though I believe they also could ‘take your money and run’ if they decided it was a good plan.

          Paypal is as dodgy as you say, since you are exchanging a generally accepted currency for a limited use currency, and in doing so you accept all kinds of very nasty conditions.

          Paypal wouldn’t survive if it could be beaten by a competitor though, so in general, if you use the credits asap, you’re probably reasonably safe. Alternatively I suppose you could make an account for people to deposit actual money into, but that would be vastly more complex than Paypal.

          1. Chargone says:

            i guess the main point is that if you MUST use paypal… clear your account every single day <_<

            automatically when the money goes in if you can.

            paypal let you pay directly with credit cards these days of course… at least on some sites, so i don't have to actually have a paypal account to buy stuff from people using it, at least…

            1. Kiesel says:

              Since PayPal is a registered bank in several countries, despite it’s strange status in the USA, I feel confident that Someone, Somewhere is regulating the process.

              Plus, unless E-bay suddenly disappears, there is a guaranteed market in which PayPal currency is legal tender.

  12. Vekni says:

    Dibs on movie adaptation options. ;)

    1. Vekni says:

      (not entirely unserious either!)

  13. Low-Level DM says:

    Good luck, sir. That’s a heck of a project you’re undertaking, I can say from limited experience. I’m in the middle of a novella project myself, as it so happens, and I can sympathize with how fluid time seems to become when one attempts to write. I’m also in support of that Donate Button idea above, there.

  14. Incidence says:

    I offer yet another wish for good fortune in your book writing endeavor and for what little my option is worth, your concept sounds fascinating and I do hope you get the book finished so I can read it.

    I would also like to forth Strangeite’s request for a donate button. I have spend many hours over the past year enjoying the work you do, both your writing and your work on Spoiler Warning, and would quite happily donate to help support you.

  15. Peter Olson says:

    I believe my interest in your writing is already firmly established.
    * http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=2124

    While I have missed seeing more of your content on this blog, I am more then willing to wait for another opportunity to read another book by you. If there is anything that this community can do, let us know. While I have no skill in the literary arts, I love reading and would be more then willing to give comments and suggestions if wanted.

    Either way, best of luck on your venture, and I look forward to buying the book.

  16. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Heres hoping your book gains international fame so I can buy it.

    1. Ener says:

      I second this.
      Just this short introduction made me want… of course I was always a sucker for steam tech stuff

  17. Steves says:

    I wondered where you had gone!

    Don’t worry though, I like books. I quite liked Mogworld, I loved your system shock re-imagining thing, and I’m pretty much guaranteed to buy whatever this is, regardless of any rifling technology inaccuracies, so carry on;)

    The only confusing thing is having all the tedious spoiler warning stuff turn up on your blog feed every day, but I ignore that anyway…and I wish you luck!

  18. Paul Spooner says:

    Good luck Shamus! We love you! Seriously, don’t worry about your kids starving and stuff. We’re here for you.

    Oh, and make it great. Make it heartwenchingly good. Give it your soul, trust it… allow your creation to wound you. Don’t be afraid. It will hurt a great deal, but it will be worth it in the end.

    We believe in you Shamus. Believe in your words, and make them true.

  19. Exetera says:

    Good luck, Shamus!

    I wish I could find some kind of awesomely inspiring words for you, the sort that makes the background music swell with a glowing overture as the camera pans into a beautiful vista. But I’m not that good at writing, and I’m not sure what street address to give to the hired orchestra, so I’ll have to settle for some mild praise in a comment. Free Radical was excellent, Spoiler Warning and your articles are no less amazing, and I can’t wait to read your new book. I promise I’ll buy it when you finish. And, thanks for indulging us anonymous Internet lurkers with your work up to now.

  20. Duffy says:

    Ouch, that is a rough path; I’ve failed in such an endeavor several times. Granted I’ve also never managed to successfully write anything for any length of time. You’ve got some decent experience in producing content on a regular basis, you’ll be fine. Wish you the best of luck.

  21. Darthricardo says:

    You, sir may be my hero. Just when I thought you couldn’t get any more amazing, you announce that you’re writing a fantasy steampunk novel. Best of luck to you, you’ll need it. I actually want to write a book someday, but the prospect is a little bit… daunting. Hope I can read it soon!

  22. Mrs. Peel says:

    Yay!!!!! I’ve been quietly mourning your recent dearth of textual content (though I obviously said nothing, since it’s your life and random strangers on the intertubes have no business complaining about how you choose to entertain them for free), and I am so excited that this is the reason!

    I’ve never played System Shock 2 (or even heard of it before you) and I LOVED Free Radical. It’s outstanding. You had me on the edge of my seat many times, and I got thoroughly immersed in the character. Setting, dialogue, characters, description, plot – everything was great. And on your blog, your biggest strength is the ability to take even the most arcane subject and make it interesting. Heck, I’ve read tens if not hundreds of thousands of words about games I will never play, not to mention programming, Middle Ages kings versus modern average joes, ethical dilemmas, etc., etc.

    (I know you don’t know me from Adam, but I assure you that I’m an extremely critical reader. I don’t say these things lightly.)

    I will buy your book the very day I first have the option to do so!

    1. Simon Buchan says:

      Repeat everything this guy said for me. And I’m going to keep typing to assure you that I don’t say that because I’m lazy, I really do utterly agree. I utterly loved Free Radical, I would rank *at least* as good as Neal Stephenson’s work – my second favourite Sci-Fi author. (Greg Egan wins for his head-melting conceptual weightiness, so it’s probably for the better that you don’t try ‘besting’ that.)

      I’m not much for 1800’s settings in general (though that’s likely due to the obsession writers seem to have with noble politicing), but good writing easily trumps. Other minor details are vague enough that I can’t say anything about them really, other than I hope there is ‘enough’ magic and not ‘too much’ steampunk – only for the reason that modern magical Victoran London is more original.

      You obviously have a good feel for the reliability of publishing books, so I’m curious if you have other plans for income, though I’m hardly expecting a response.

      Good luck, and do try to not burn out! 5k in a week sounds like a lot to my non-writer ears (given proofing, research, etc…. Obviously 50k of drivel can be written in a week).

  23. Rosseloh says:

    The book is set in and around quasi-historical London in 1885. A little bit of magic. A little bit of steamworks.

    Hey, you stole my idea!

    Er, well, I guess from your timeline I stole it from you. But hilariously, about a month ago this sort of thing was indeed an idea I was tossing around. I might have even written something if I was any good at writing. The only difference is it was simply based on London, not actually London.

  24. Aldowyn says:

    Very rare is the author who can instantly write a slam dunk without any experience. Books are a hard market to get into and succeed, and I wish you all the luck. I can say that 90% or better of us will get your book the instant we can, and many of us would use the donate button mentioned above.

    Don’t feel afraid to ask us about what you’re doing with the book, either. Just talking to someone about something can inspire you – shucks, even reading bad ideas jumpstarts my mind all the time!

    On a more personal note, I’ve been thinking of making a book out of my D&D campaign I’m starting, with my character (who, in various forms, has been gestating for years) as the protagonist. I did the origin story, and it seems to me it would make a pretty good introduction. Obviously I’d have to ask the other players and the DM (shucks, at that point they deserve some of the royalties, especially the GM. If it got published, which I doubt.), but everyone I’ve shown it to has really liked it, so… *shrug* If I novelize each session, I’ll even have a steady schedule and a definite end, not defined by me – I just have to turn it into an enjoyable read.

    If anyone wants to read that story, it’s here, on my blog. I was going fairly well on there for a couple months late last year, but I haven’t posted anything since November… need to get back on that.

  25. ehlijen says:

    I wish you best of luck with this endeavour! I have to admit the setup does not sound like my cup of tea. But as my cup of tea is really a quantum flux between hot chocolate and bubbly suger water served on a spaceship, I’m not sure I should be the target audience for anything/one sane anyway. I hope it turns out great. I have no idea if it will. I’d like to think your great writing you display here and on the escapist will win the day, but as far as I understand writing a novel takes different skills as well. Plus saying you’ll do great would be heaping expectations onto you. So I won’t.

    I have to say I never thought of you as ripping of Yathzee. Possibly because I came accross this blog first and ZP later, but I’d like to think mostly because while I find his stuff entertaining, I find yours both entertaining and a lot more informative. And a lot broader in range. So if I had to compare the two of you, though I don’t see why that should be done, I’d say he’s a wannabe shamus.

    So as long as you don’t build a tiny(!) bar with gaming consoles, you’re safe from at least from me in regards to rip off accusations.

    I like spoiler warning, so I don’t mind the shift in focus. But yes, this site should stay active, with you at the helm. Not because we want our fix of shamus ranting (though we do), but because it’s an instant fanbase for this project. While that is a risk (expectations and the dissappointment thereof) it can also be a great boon (instant interest of significant size on release).

    But that’s just me rambling. To sum up, Good Luck! Or Viel Glueck, viel Spass, viel Wissen, viel Erfolg as we used to say back home.

    1. Fists says:

      On the Yahtzee thing I found him first (after liking unforgotten realms, one of the few who didn’t find escapist through Mr Croshaw) then started reading stolen pixels then your column and I’ve never noticed any actual overlap.

      TL:DR? I don’t think you copy Yahtzee

  26. Mari says:

    I admit to being amongst those who noticed the somewhat reduced verbage. In fact, I commented on it just last night to the Hubs. But I wouldn’t have the gall to say anything to you; certainly not after the years of free entertainment you’ve already given me. That would be like mugging the free sample ladies at Sam’s and then insulting them for not having more cash in their purses.

    I am happy to know what you’re up to, though. Steampunk-type settings aren’t really my thing but I’m willing to give it a go. I do have a fondness for lighthearted adventure, historical (or pseudo-historical) London, magic, and the undead (at least, the undead that doesn’t sparkle or brood) so those are bonuses. More importantly, I’d buy the thing and never even read it just to support an author I like and admire.

    Also, “yay” to the donate button. It’s already long overdue.

  27. Adam P says:

    Shamus, I’ve got to admit: I’ve been a little bit bothered by the recent bi-weekly EP schedule and a general decrease of blog posts. I have been enjoying Spoiler Warning in the meantime, though. In fact, I’ve been enjoying SW so much that I started watching the other three series; last I saw, Randy had just punched a reporter in Mass Effect!

    That said, sixty thousand words? And growing? Wow. I feel like an ass now. I’ll patiently look forward to any future announcements, be they good or bad. Best of luck to your endeavour!

  28. Thom (talzaroff) says:

    Good luck writing! And hurry up with that Donate button ;)

  29. MichaelG says:

    You are typing away in secret on a book, and are horrified at the thought of even talking about it. Why? You are doing this the conventional way, and not engaging your community at all. Why not?

    I understand that story telling seems uniquely personal, but I’ve felt the same way about the code I write. I keep thinking, “no, I can’t show this to people — it’s crap now. I should wait until it’s done.” And I tried to write my game project THREE TIMES this way and ran out of steam every time due to lack of feedback.

    I’m really enjoying the comments I get on my project
    ( http://www.sea-of-memes.com ) and it has stopped bothering me that all the code has been put out in public. No one has made snide comments about quality or bugs. They’ve been very encouraging.

    So perhaps you should write your novel the internet way. Put out all the drafts, broken into chapters, plus a plot summary, character descriptions, etc. Let people comment. Just as I have graphics experts telling me the right way to implement my code, and people recommending code libraries, etc., you could get comments on your characters and world building. Not to mention corrections of all typos and grammar.

    Fans would be MORE engaged with what you are doing, not less. You would feel less tension, since you’d be getting feedback, not waiting a year (or more) for publication. And giving it away for free costs you nearly nothing. As Tim O’Reilly said: “Obscurity is a bigger problem for artists than piracy.” The blog would be advertising for the book, not competition.

    You have strengths as a programmer and blog author that you are not using when you write a book the 19th century way. Please reconsider!

    1. mliebstein says:

      I think the problem is that he wants to sell it, and even if you’re right about the blog being free publicity more than anything else, I don’t think publishers would react well to “Yeah, and if you look around on my website a bit you can read most of it for free.”

      Also I’m a bit old-fashioned and prefer my books coming from one man’s mind, start to finish (excluding editors, of course), but that’s all a matter of opinion, I suppose.

      1. Raygereio says:

        I don't think publishers would react well to “Yeah, and if you look around on my website a bit you can read most of it for free.”

        Some publishers do embrace the internet a bit more. Then again; maybe you have to be Neil Gaiman to get that to happen:

        1. mliebstein says:

          Yeah, there’s a difference between a well-known writer and a complete newcomer, I think. Names sell, too.
          But I’m of course no expert on this. If this kind of thing really does help even more unknown writers, by all means, I’m all for it.
          Making the internet your first editors might be a whole new kind of problem, but I’m sure Shamus has the common sense to be able to benefit from it either way.

          1. Raygereio says:

            Well, you don’t have to be a big name for it to work. There is the successtory of Dmitry Glukhovsky (Metro 2033) for instance. Granted you probably stil need a fair bit of luck, but that goes for everything.

            And heck, who need a publisher when you have the Internet? Look at what Tracy Hickman is doing. Or you could publish through something like Lulu. The only problem with those off course the American oriented payment options, making it inaccessible to people without creditcards or those who rightly refuse to have any dealings with paypal.

            1. mliebstein says:

              I seem to be really behind on how publishing works these days. I should read up on it at some point.
              It’d be awesome to actually see Shamus’ novel in stores, but whatever makes him the most money, I suppose.

              1. Aldowyn says:

                I mentioned getting us to help above, but not nearly so directly…

                Anyway, writing it and then showing it to us and having us critique it and give ideas won’t really “contaminate” his influence on the book – it’s more to kickstart his mind so he thinks of other things, that may or may not be related to what we say.

          2. Caffiene says:

            Scott Sigler is another good example of internet self-publishing as an entry-point. Hes released two of his novels as free ebooks, and nearly all of them as podcast audiobooks, and he got picked up for publication on the strength of his fan base and even made the New York Times bestsellers.

      2. Hitch says:

        Another writer to look to for ideas on distributing your book if the publishers are not beating down your door to hand you large advance checks is Cory Doctorow. (http://craphound.com/)

        1. Rustybadger says:

          Yeah, Cory’s a great example. Gives away the e-book version, and sells boatloads of analogue copies. And his publisher is cool with it, so at least we know some publishers are willing to ‘think different’.

          Traditional publishing is a double-edged sword, that all too often winds up cutting the author with both edges. You have to pay up front for printing costs unless you’re a popular author (in which case you’d get a nice fat advance instead); and once the book hits shelves, you have to wait for the royalties to equal the cost of printing before you get anything. Print-on-demand solves some of the problems, but introduces others.

          It’s a tough nut to crack, and there’s no easy answers. But Shamus does have the advantage of being somewhat famous, which will help a lot.

          1. Calli says:


            No no no no no.

            You do not have to shell out money to publish ‘traditionally’ (and anyone who tells you otherwise has one goal in mind: separating you from your money). That turn of phrase — “traditional publishing” — got started by Publish America, a notorious author mill. Too much to explain and far too much to sum up — google ‘Publish America scam’ and enjoy.

            (And after that, if you want something to cheer you up, google ‘Atlanta Nights Travis Tea’.)

            It’s true that you won’t see royalties until the publisher earns back the cost of publication (which includes not just printing, but editing, promotion and placement in bookstores, cover art, and the other aspects of book production — and yes, all these things come out of the publisher’s pocket, not the author’s). Most books don’t earn out their advance, so the author only sees the advance money. But the idea that you have to be a famous person to get an advance? Completely false. New authors get signed all the time — after all, authors aren’t immortal novel-generating machines. (And that’s probably for the best.) Sometimes a debut novelist has gotten a name by publishing short fiction in various venues. A lot of times they’re brand new in any publication venue, period.

            Tl;dr version: Paying for “traditional” publication is a toxic myth.

    2. Zak McKracken says:

      The difference between a software and a book is this:
      If you know the software and what it looks like, you haven’t necessarily used it yet, but if it’s done well, you know far better why you want to use it.
      If you know the book and its story in advance … well some good books can be read twice, but a lot of details can loose their charm if you know the murderer before the book is even printed.

      I do, however, think that bowing to some publisher’s demands is not unavoidable these days. I do also think that self-publishing solves a lot of problems with publishers and intellectual rights and that type of stuff. It also puts more of the risks (and work, but also profits) on the author’s side, and that’s why I wouldn’t urge Shamus to self-publish.
      But I’d be completely amazed if he did. And I know several people who’d get the book for Christmas :)

  30. Antwon says:

    A novel? Hey, awesome! Here’s hoping that you can make that actually come to fruition! I know that I’ve long since let sail any “maybe I have the gumption to make it to publication someday” hopes I might once have had… but I wholeheartedly support those who are still living the dream, as it were. :) (Along similar lines: consider me nth-ing the whole “wish this site had a ‘donate’ button, as I would very much like to contribute to someone whose prose I’ve often enjoyed over the years” concept.)

    In other news: I know I’ve kvetched about this in the past… but “I'm reviewing less games”? And “if there were less YouTubes”? Both of those should be “fewer”, not “less”. Ordinarily, I’d not care… but I’ve seen this on the site many times previously, and if you’re submitting yourself for publication at some point, I’d prefer there be one fewer thing stopping an agent from immediately tossing your work onto the “ignore this” slag heap. :) (Especially considering that your text is usually so polished – you even use the subjunctive tense when it’s called for! – it’s one of those things that sticks out like a sore thumb.)

  31. mliebstein says:

    I’ve read Yahtzee’s Mogworld. It was a fun read, but not good enough to accuse anyone of ripping it off. There was nothing really new and original about it.
    I have to admit I’ve never read Free Radical (I’ve been wanting to, but I find it nauseating to read something the length of a novel on a computer screen), but I’m confident you’ll be able to put out something better. In fact, you might wish to read Mogworld, because despite not being terrible it’s probably a great example of an author forcing humor out of habit. You know, what with Yahtzee being used to making a joke every third sentence, not that that’s a bad thing in his columns.

    The book is set in and around quasi-historical London in 1885. A little bit of magic. A little bit of steamworks.

    I have to admit, my first thought was Echo Bazaar. A good novel set in a world that’s even the littlest bit like Fallen London’s would be wonderful.

    I seem to be horrible at getting to the point. What I wanted to say is: I’d buy your book even if it was to literature what Michael Bay is to films, just because you’re a pretty cool dude. And us pretty cool dudes gotta stick together, ya know?
    Really though, best of luck.

  32. Zeta Kai says:

    Well, don’t worry about failing. You’ve already made one sale. I can guarantee that I’ll be buying a copy. I buy Order of the Stick books, I bought Game Night by Johnny Nexus, & MogWorld is on my birthday wishlist, so I have a habit of supporting works from authors I like. And you, sir, are an author I like. Ring me up.

    And put a damn Donate button on your site, Young. Don’t be a slacker. ;)

  33. Raygereio says:

    This is truly a terrifying experience. A mad scheme, doomed to failure and public humiliation, then followed swiftly by financial ruin.

    You’re a braver man than I am, Shamus. I hope this works for you.

  34. Galad says:

    “A mad scheme, doomed to failure and public humiliation, then followed swiftly by financial ruin. ”

    I realize my point of view must be quite ignorant and/or naive. I realize the above words are likely exaggerated and/or embellished for writing effect. I also realize there are large risks related to writing a book, though I probably don’t quite grasp just how large. I realize you (probably) don’t have a solid income at this point.

    Still, shouldn’t you have at least a bit more of a positive outlook on the book writing than this? You have a writing talent which, while of a different sort, is no less than Yahtzee’s writing talent, and I say this as a fan of both of yours’ written works(this blog and Extra Punctuation)..

    1. Mari says:

      There’s positive, negative, and then there’s plain reality. Despite recent innovation in the publishing industry that makes self-publication MUCH more of an option than at any time in the past century, the reality is that it’s very, very, very difficult to get a novel published and even more so to sell more than a dozen to fewer than a hundred copies.

      Even excellent writers wind up on the slag heap if they apply to publishers that aren’t seeking that specific genre of literature right this very moment. And self-publication efforts require an ego the size of Texas to drive sales.

      Things like the nook/kindle markets that allow sales of e-pub self-published books offer new and exciting opportunities but quality publications get lost there amid a sea of “Immortal Beloved” styled assaults on the English language and copy-pasted wikipedia entries sold as scams. Basically the spam is overrunning the good stuff at an alarming rate, making it a specious option for authors like Shamus.

      I suspect that with all of that, Shamus is being more of a realist than the average non-writer realizes. Still, I have high hopes for him. A dedicated audience of internet readers and a little desperation might just drive him into the literary winner’s circle despite the odds against all writers.

      1. Aldowyn says:

        You mentioned one of the issues I have with downloadable and internet media – it’s really hard to dig through the junk to find the gems hidden inside.

        Of course, if you promote yourself a little bit on the Escapist, I’m sure you’d have a lot more fans there willing to buy the book. A book isn’t that much, after all.

  35. James says:

    Quick note/Query:
    You are an American, writing about London.
    And of that set, there is a high chance that it will be either

    a) Horrifically Cliched, full of urchins, tea and stiff upper lips.
    b) America, but in London.

    Even better, it might be both!

    As a Britisher, I am naturally suspicious of people of a land that we fathered, but somehow cannot understand how a roundabout works.

    Therefore, here are some quick notes/tips for people who drive on the wrong side of the road.

    The 19th Century is a strange time for Britain. Mass urban migration, the Industrial Revolution, the Luddites, the assassination of Spencer Perceval, the introduction of the Bow Street Runners (the Peelers), the Catholic Emancipation Act, the Railways, the rise of the unions (until Thatcher broke them in half to stop Scargill from running the country), the Public Health Act, the Artisan’s Dwelling Act, the Indian Mutiny, the Crimean War, and the Decline of the Empire towards the latter end of the Century.

    Also – another thing.

    If you are going to use Britishisms or local slang or (heaven help you) a Cockney character, please make sure you use the right words.

    Final note – make sure that you understand British Imperial Measurements.

    2 Farthings in a Ha’Penny, 2 Ha’Pennies in a Penny (1d), 3 Pence in a Thruppence (3d), 2 Thruppenny Bits in a Sixpence (6d – a tanner), 2 Sixpence in a Shilling (1s – a bob), 2 Shillings in a Florin (2s – a two bob bit), Two Shillings and 6 in a Half-Crown (2s 6d), 2 Half-Crowns in a Crown (5d), 4 Crowns in a Sovereign (£1 – but a quid if paper), 21 Shillings in a Guinea (£1/1s/0d – You paid artists in Guineas, tradesmen in Sovereign). Simple.

    (NB: Both the Guinea and Sovereign were made from Gold.)

    I’ve always suspected that the only reason that we had Imperial was to be able to consistently short-change the French.

    Hope that you got all of that. Any Questions?

    1. Hitch says:

      And decimalization of currency was designed to confuse the public?

      1. Aldowyn says:

        let’s put it this way: That is a heck of a lot more confusing than the American measurement system. We only have, what, 4 things to remember in relation to each other? Inches, feet, yards, miles… Well, I guess there’s other things that we don’t use the metric system for, but distance is the only one we exclusively don’t.

        1. Dys says:


          Add to that eighths and sixteenths of an inch, which are the units tools are measured in. In an age of decimal, any engineer using Imperial measurements is doomed, and yet I’ve seen Americans arguing for its superiority.

          1. Aldowyn says:

            I never said it was better than the metric system – I just said it was simpler than that currency system…

    2. Dys says:

      I had similar premonitions, why write about London? Have you ever even seen London? (Fly over, we’ll give you a tour.)

      On the other hand, when you worry about what kind of gun to use, how it would be carried etc. etc. you’re worrying about nothing in particular. Real world detail can give a world a vivid texture, but ultimately so long as you’re consistent you don’t need to reference reality. You’re writing fiction. The world works however you SAY it works, just try not to contradict yourself.

      For reference, read Perdido Street Station. That is steampunk, and it does not touch reality at any point.

      1. James says:

        Kraken (also by China Mieville, the author of Perdito Street Station) is a fantastic example of modern London fantasy, as is Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Also about London – it is bigger than it sounds. It contains 15% of the British population, and is itself a County, containing 33 Boroughs, each containing a sizeable population. (NB: the City of London is 24sq miles, and London itself is 607sq miles)

        London is not just Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and Tower Bridge. Americans always get that wrong.

  36. X2-Eliah says:

    Good luck with this.

    Hmm. ~100k words for a book.. Damnit, that’s not too hard. Only need to work out how to string them all together, but that shouldn’t be too hard, eh? eh?

  37. Daimbert says:

    Good luck on the book. I’m speaking as someone with a few novel length ideas but no time to work on them due to my job and my courses.

    One thing I’ll say that might help you along is that unless you’re really trying for an incredibly historically accurate novel, when that urge to research those things comes up just go and lie down for a few minutes until it goes away. If a novel is entertaining, most people will ignore it or, at worst, turn it into Fridge Logic. So, unless it really matters to either plot or characterization, just keep the scene moving and when people proofread it you’ll find out which ones are really problems and which aren’t. Yeah, people will complain about things like that on the Internet, but usually only about books they like [grin].

    I’d also say that getting people to read the unfinished portions who can give honest criticism seems to me like a good thing. They can find issues before you get so far along that fixing it would be too problematic. So, find a good proofreader now. If you don’t have one, I — and I’m sure everyone on this board — will volunteer.

    Note that my comments are not based on any experience as a writer, but with my rather extensive experience as a reader.

    1. X2-Eliah says:

      Hm. I wouldn’t be so quick to volunteer, by the way. Proofreading’s an utterly awful, soul-draining work, even in small doses. Same misconception as with game testing, people always assume it just means ‘get stuff few months faster’ – but it rarely is, and often it just spoils the whole experience.

      1. Aldowyn says:

        I’ve heard this first-hand, but I’m sure many of us would volunteer anyway.

        I likely wouldn’t have much to say about things like issues with 19th century Britain, but there are plenty of other things I would – and another intelligent person looking for simple spelling mistakes and obvious inconsistencies can’t be a bad thing.

      2. Rustybadger says:

        But that is precisely why we should be offering to do it for him- so his IRL friends don’t get asked to! And heaven forbid you ask your family to proofread a manuscript for you!

        1. Daimbert says:

          That’s actually one of the keys; you want someone who can give an honest and unbiased opinion without risking long-term hard feelings. Friends and family are nice and all, but they may have trouble telling you if it really isn’t working.

      3. chiefnewo says:

        Funnily enough, I’m leaving IT support and attempting to get a proofreading and copy editing career going. I’m hoping to trade into a soul sucking career that involves less phone calls.

      4. Daimbert says:

        At my job, I’m one of the people with the best background in writing and English, as well as with our products. Thus, I was the one tapped to inspect and review much of our dry, technical documents describing how things were going to work. Which were often written by people who did not have English as their first language or who did but weren’t all that great at grammar. I’m very well aware of the problems involved in proofreading [grin].

        No, the offer was genuine, and not aimed at getting something earlier. After all, I might end up not liking it, so …

  38. HerrSchmidt says:

    Writing eh? I’d warn against putting that particular monkey on your back, but if it’s already there picking in your hair, you might as well swat at it with some technology. If you are having trouble keeping facts on the plate might I suggest something like ZuluPad? It’s like a notepad/wiki, with the ability to cross-index things and link to documents. Looking up information on it is just a keyword away.

    It’s got a free version that’s, for plain text anyway, quite manageable. Naturally it has a pro version, but it’s quite useful for large written projects that have bits of info all over the place. I suspect there are alternatives for it (and if anyone points out a nice one I will go a samplin’), but there be a darn good reason Wiki like structures are spreading like weeds.

    Oh right, the link. http://www.gersic.com/zulupad/zulupadPro.html
    The download for the free one is the downloads page. I hope it helps you like it did for me when I was getting into the writing habit. I’ve been meaning to quit, do something productive, but my monkey grabs me by the ears and hauls me back to the word processor.

    Bugger, I forgot some other useful pieces of tech for culling… distractions. These of course will depend on which softwares you might be using, but if you are using MS’s Word of at least 2007 or newer, Writespace is a godsend for keeping focus. It blacks out things nicely so you don’t get distracted, on one monitor at least, I can’t recall if they got it to go on multiple. It provides the utility of Word, but hides it under blackness to promote the squeezing out of verbiage so you have something to fritter about with. It should still be the first google link for ‘Writespace’, but will of course require you to have a Word in the first place.

    The free notepad-like alternative is called Dark Room found at http://download.cnet.com/Dark-Room/3000-2079_4-10562359.html
    It’s a notepad with the same purity of a typewriter under a bare light-bulb. You and Text, nothing else.

    Those three items have improved me from ‘completely unproductive’ to ‘slightly productive’. Maybe they help you, maybe they drive you to new levels of un-writing as you feverishly attempt to create your own alternative program, culminating in an unparalleled depth of despair. Who can say?

    Good luck with your monkey, oh master of the Twenty Sided.

  39. Kdansky says:

    Oh boy, I was right!
    Oh boy, a book!

    But you need me to tell the title so I can pre-order it on Steam!

    On a more serious note: Make sure to publish it in a way so that we poor Europeans can also buy it without paying 20$ extra for shipping.

  40. Silfir says:

    Make sure to publish it so that it makes you as much money as possible. Speaking as a German, Europeans be damned!

    (Of course, making the book an attractive buy for European readers could very well be the best way to make money. Do bring this point up in potential business negotiations.)

    (Also, speaking this time as some guy who would dearly wish to write a novel, but fears the enormity of the task and his own inadequacy – Godspeed, brave soldier.)

  41. Vipermagi says:

    61 comments. Quick! Add another to see if this message changes!
    Adding a message to see if it corrects itself.

    Also, mandatory good luck wishes on your bookwriting escapade :)
    62 comments. Quick! Add another to see if this message changes!
    I guess it doesn’t. Maybe you could help the poor machine out?

  42. Tomulus says:

    I, Tomulus, hereby promise to purchase your book when it’s done (and your game, too). I’ll also watch the movie, get the spin-off TV series on DVD and buy the action figures.

    1. Falcon_47 says:

      LOL, one can only hope XD (and careful with that movie, Hollywood tends to destroy more franchises then the ones it helps promote)…

      1. Tomulus says:

        Well, just don’t let M. Night Shyamalan or Michael Bay direct.

        1. Shamus says:

          Yeah. That would be a waste of talent.

          M. Night Shamwow will write the screenplay. Michael Bay will produce. Ewe Boll will direct. I was thinking we’d hire a focus group to figure out the casting, but I’m leaning towards just casting Megan Fox and Robert Pattinson for my leads.

          1. Aldowyn says:

            Poor Robert Pattinson. I liked Cedric… Fox doesn’t have the same vindication, though.

  43. Zak McKracken says:

    As someone with an acute writing problem (I should not by typing this comment right now but hacking away on my own stuff…): Judging by how long it takes me to get anything done, writing-wise, and how far away my goal still is, and how quickly you are producing content, even with no hard deadlines: You’ll make this. Some of your estimates for how long it’ll take might not be correct, or whatever, but this is going to be great, even if it comes a year later than anticipated, because here’s one fellow who appreciates a solid plot, and a well-written story, and I’m pretty sure that much of the time you think you “lose” you actually spend on making the whole thing so much better.
    What did I want to say? Right: You may think you’re slow, but you’re not. You’re just wanting to be even faster, and that’s what keeps you going. I whish I could do that, too.

    Also: Seconding the call for a distribution path that’ll get the book to Europe without doubling the effective costs.

  44. Kai says:

    Go for it, Shamus!

  45. RichVR says:

    Good luck, man. I have half a book lying around somewhere. It Is Hard Work.

  46. Some Jackass says:

    Well, they say nothing inspires you to finish a project like telling people about it. The fear of looking like a fool will now drive you.

    Ever think about posting snippets of it up here? I’d love to see some of it.

  47. Sam Goodspeed says:

    For the last few years I’ve immensely enjoyed checking this blog daily; it’s intelligent, funny, and very personable. I enjoyed Free Radical as well, and I can’t wait to see what kind of setting you’ve come up with on your own.

    It took a lot of guts to announce your project publicly like this, and I think it just goes to show how dedicated you are. Go for it, man!

  48. Jarenth says:

    I guess I don’t really have anything more interesting to say here than “Good luck”, “Keep it up” and “Let us know how you’re doing from time to time”.

    So I’ll say that, then.

  49. JohnTomorrow says:

    Holy crap, i know exactly how you feel. To have written words within you, or even worse, put down to paper…and to not use it, to create something and just have it collect dust…

    …There are days when i look at some of the things i’ve written, or i look at my notebooks upon notebooks of ideas, and think to myself ‘just do it. you’ve researched it, you know whats involved, just start doing it!’

    but then i procrastinate. i fiddle, i get distracted, i forget. and then two months pass and i find it somewhere and i think ‘thats right…i’ll get to it.’

    Not only that, but i still have stuff floating around from years ago, when all i did was write. no games, no movies, just heaps and heaps of books and a shitty old PC my dad got me to stop my hand from cramping from writing everything out long hand. and i know that if i pull them out, polish up my technique, maybe tweak the story a little more so its more mature and less like something a fifteen year old would do…well, that would be something.

    Matthew Reilly once said ‘You should only write stuff you’d want to read yourself – then you’ll never be disappointed.’ But he should have mentioned getting out there and publishing the damn thing, to not be so scared of failure or getting shot down by a jaded publisher.

  50. Gantidae says:

    Good luck! I’ve enjoyed your writing here for several years now. I’m confident any product that you finally release for publication will be worth the time to read.

    You’ve chosen a horrible setting for my personal tastes. Both the time period and steamworks setting have never interested me. That being said I will still give this book a read assuming it ever sees a bookshelf. Who knows? Maybe you’ll start to change my perception of the genre.

  51. some random dood says:

    Who’s Yahtzee? Is he (she/it?) worth reading?
    Will admit haven’t read all the comments yet, but one obvious thing is shouting out – does your novel have to be a single volume? A lot of my favourite works are multi-volume pieces (from serious ones like Lord of the Rings, and Thomas Covenant series, to the light hearted Belgariad and Piers Antony stuff), so why not see if there is a place in the plot where a break can come naturally and then continue in a second (third…) volume?

    1. Aldowyn says:

      Someone else that has read the Belgariad! YES! (I’m actually reading it at the moment…)

      I imagine he wants to do one book because that seems simpler at first – if he’s half way through it and the end seems in sight, that’s probably not a good idea, but whatever works.

      After all, Shamus said “The tale is growing in the telling” in the opening post. I’m not sure if he did that on purpose or not, but a famous Tolkien quote concerning Lord of the Rings (which wasn’t supposed to overshadow the Hobbit the way it does) was “This tale grew in the telling”!

      1. Nidokoenig says:

        One thing I heard about Tolkien was that he essentially wrote the Lord of the Rings et al just to show a world where his constructed languages were spoken. As novels, they were woefully inefficient; doing dozens of hours of research is nothing compared to hundreds or thousands of hours creating that information by hand. On the other hand, he basically created a new strain of mythology as complex as the heavy hitters in world history.

        This reminds me of my eternally stalled writing endeavour. I started working out a story about a bunch of eejits destined to save the world, then started making one of the languages that would be spoken there. Spent months on the language, didn’t even get to how to say hello. Never got to the point where I thought I had enough cultural background to handle greetings. Well, I’ve got all the notes, I should dust them off some time.

        Oh, and I’m eagerly awaiting the opportunity to throw money at Shamus.

        1. Aldowyn says:

          I’d like to mention that most of the mythology isn’t mentioned at all in LotR – most of it is in all the other stuff, like the painful Silmarillion.

          1. Nidokoenig says:

            With mythology, I was thinking less of specific stories and more about a baseline world as a setting and ethos to tell stories in. The “Tolkienesque” mythology that every man and his dog uses, the same way you can make stories that take place in the world of Greek or Roman mythology without direct reference to any one story. I’m probably using the wrong word, he basically gave birth to a style and setting, simply because he put in the necessary work to support them.

            1. Rosseloh says:

              The word I think you’re looking for is “Legendarium”, which I believe was in fact coined by Tolkien himself to refer to his works.

              And yes, as novels the Trilogy can be a bit stuffy and difficult, but he initially wrote it to be a sequel to The Hobbit with an expanded setting based on his, ahem, Legendarium (which in itself was designed to give a mythology to the history of England, similar to how the Norse had their gods, and the Greeks, and the Romans, etcetera). I believe the Letters state that he initially wanted to publish his form of the Silmarillion, of which bits and pieces were written as early as the first World War. But the general consensus I’ve come to is that he ended up writing a plot set in his extremely detailed history, world, and languages, which is the opposite of a lot of authors where the world is simply a backdrop.

              1. Aldowyn says:

                Most of the authors I read have quite complex worlds – the aforementioned Belgariad, for example, or Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time (don’t get me started)

                IMO, the world is the most important part of a story – it sets the tone, establishes what can and can’t be done, etc. etc.

                1. Rosseloh says:

                  Both of which I have not read, and so I stand corrected. And I agree. It’s probably why I like Tolkien’s works so much – the world is so, so detailed that you just want to go live there (at least, the Shire). It only follows that I’m a huge fan of Lord of the Rings Online: even if the end-game leaves something to be desired, the world is top-notch.

  52. Fat Tony says:

    *Cirps in with inspiration “Good Lucks” etc. “Hope it goes wells” and a wiity joke, before promising to buy it when it’s innevitably/eventually released.
    = D

  53. Rustybadger says:

    How about Kickstarting it? If enough of us pledge to cover the cost of a small print run, then the motivation and financial backing should be enough to get things done in a hurry…

  54. Irridium says:

    Good luck to you Shamus. The book sounds interesting and I hope its a success for you.

    And now I wait for that donate button.

  55. Daphne B says:

    Shamus, not that you need my kudos when you have 92 positive comments sitting here, but I just wanted to say, I have every confidence in the high quality of your book. Everything I’ve read by you (blog posts, comics, etc.) has been enjoyable and keeps me coming back year after year. If you write it, I will gladly buy it.

  56. As a fellow “man in the process of writing a book” I was going to make a comment here, but it kept on growing and ended up turning into a journal entry on my DeviantART page where my efforts so far are hosted (http://chris-b-chikin.deviantart.com/). Anyway, here it is again, reproduced for everyone who doesn’t want to go near DeviantART (I don’t blame you) to read it:

    I’m a follower of a gaming blog written by Shamus Young of the Escapist. Although I mainly watch it for a webshow called Spoiler Warning wherein he and some friends play through a game whilst tearing into its inconsistent or badly written plots, I also occasionally read some of his articles. In a recent one, Shamus announced that he was writing a novel, stating that:

    “The world is full of people who are writing books, or who imagine they are writing books, or who hope to write a book. There is nothing more sad and worthy of pity than a man in the process of writing a book.”

    He then goes on to elaborate on how there is nothing in this world more worthless than an unfinished novel. I can identify and concur with everything he is saying. What’s more, while Shamus has been focused on his writing project for maybe a few months and reports that he is about 60,000 words in, I have been working on The Gaia Wars in one form or another for something like five years, and I’m only at a measly 10,000 words. If Shamus is correct, and the unpublished writer is the lowest form of life, then statistically it seems I am lower still.

    At this point I should probably state in my defence that the course of those five years has not been spent writing solidly, otherwise I think it would be best to just quit entirely for the good of the human race. For one thing, there have been long periods of inactivity caused by the fact that I am a student and therefore unable to devote anything like the time I would like to my writing. But there is another reason. When I penned the very first words to The Gaia Wars I was in my mid teens. Today, still possessing some of the original effort, I can testify that it reads like the efforts of a thirteen-year-old Twilight enthusiast trying to write fanfiction. It is an embarrassment and a crime against literature and I’m ashamed that my name appears in the header.

    Since then the novel has been through three or four redrafts, never once making it past the 15,000 word mark before I got sick of it. Fortunately I feel like my skill has improved to the point that I can look back at the current draft with no greater urge than to tweak with the sentence structure and occasionally hunt down a new synonym for detritus. I think this is the furthest I have got in both word count and story progression without feeling an overwhelming desire to start over. I like the current draft. Then again, when I was fifteen I thought the drivel I’d spouted then would one day be worthy of publishing. What is to say that in five years time I won’t look at today’s efforts with similar scorn to that with which I today regard my first draft?

    And that is my main problem. As much as I like what I’m currently writing, I’m afraid of expending the further effort into something which, as Shamus Young states, will only continue to depreciate in value until that day when I might finish it and begin to see some return on my investment. What if, before then, I decide once more that the current draft is not worth continuing with and opt to start over? All I have written so far and might write in the future would be wasted effort and for this reason I feel reluctant to continue expending energy in vain.

    Still, I suppose the only way to improve enough to hate my own work is to keep on writing. Back to work then!

    Anyone who wants to read the first three chapters of the novel is welcome to!

  57. Zaghadka says:

    Good luck, and may God have mercy on your soul, Shamus. ;)

  58. Numfar says:

    I want to read that book, I want to buy that book, I want Joss Whedon to make a movie out of that book.

    And I _am_ sorry, but:

    But seriously, I want to preorder.

  59. Roxysteve says:

    So I guess that puts the final nail in the coffin of the long-awaited Judge Dredd screencap comic then?


    The very best of luck with this fine literary venture, Shamus.


  60. Aven says:

    Get her done.

    Aven, out.

  61. qwksndmonster says:

    I love writing. I, myself, am currently working on several long-term projects. It’s really fun for me to write, though because i’m surrounded by incredibly good writers and editors (my girlfriend is a terrific writer/editor, and my mother is an english major), it turns out pretty good. I never even dream about selling any of it though… Good luck, Shamus! And, I found your blog because of Yahtzee, so his fame isn’t all bad.

  62. Adam says:

    I’ll buy it.

  63. Dys says:

    Looks like you have a hundred sales or so, right there. That’s enough to make it as a novelist, right? :)

    Worth noting that almost everyone here is also ‘writing’, though the sample is likely biased. I’d love to, but unfortunately I don’t have the will.

    I recall hearing Ira Glass talking about creative endeavours, and how anyone who wants to create tends to have reasonably good taste. That is, you read enough to know what’s good. The problem is, without practise… what is it they say, it takes ten thousand hours to get good at something? So, when you start, your work will suck. What’s worse, you know it sucks, because you have taste. So you stop.

    The secret to authorship, as with most creative work, is to not stop. To keep going, learning, until your work no longer sucks. All the work you’ve put into this blog bears fruit now. I think you’ve probably put your 10k hours in here.

    So I wish you well, and salute your courage. Never stop, no matter how much it hurts to read what you just wrote.

    And for everyone with an idea, or half a book… that one will probably suck. Finish it, put it away, start another. Eventually you might get good.

  64. BeamSplashX says:

    As someone that wishes to go into screenwriting, I salute you. I mostly decided on screenplays since I can’t muster the desire to provide as much detail as a book practically requires. The idea of building a foundation for a visual work is easier for me to cope with (and toy with for fun).

    If you’ve already written one novel (that I WILL read someday, promise!) then you’ve already had a hand at the skill of finishing one. After all, Yahtzee finished two novels* before Mogworld that were unpublished… I’m not helping the comparison, am I? Besides, written Let’s Plays are worth something in the scheme of written narrative experience, too.

    *http://www.fullyramblomatic.com/novels.htm, Fog Juice and Articulate Jim, the latter of which I read while I was in high school and enjoyed thoroughly.

  65. I think it’s better to do serious research after everything’s finished. Otherwise, you do get sidetracked and end up spending all your time researching instead of writing. If it takes less than 5 or 10 minutes, it’s ok, but if it’s serious search engine madness, it can wait. Good luck! And remember, there is such a thing as TOO MUCH research.

  66. thebigJ_A says:

    They did have rifling, and the cartridge had fairly recently been invented. Most pistols of the period were revolvers and it would likely have fired between 5 – 8 shots. The semi-automatic pistol wasn’t popularized until the 1890s, with the ridiculous and awesome looking C-93: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borchardt_C-93

    Next time just ask me! ;)

    (Obvs I know it was just an example.)

    Good luck with your book!

  67. Ateius says:

    Best of luck, Shamus, and I look forward to reading it on some undefined future date!

  68. rayen says:

    oddly enough i was almost positive you were writing a book. Either that or got a new job that was 45 minutes away. I was wondering when you gonna let us in on it.

    anyway good luck and all that. My uncle wrote three books and each time he kinda disappeared for months on end. I saw him on christmas and my dads and his birthdays but beyond that he was a hermit. I’m trying to write a book (which is in fact very sad and worthy of pity) prewriting is done just starting it is a pain. I start read what i wrote then scrap it. apparenntly you got past this so content yourself with the knowledge your better than some one else at this.

  69. Alex says:

    There is nothing more sad and worthy of pity than a man in the process of writing a book. He will tell you, if you sit still for it, how exciting and new and delightful the work will be… someday. But no matter how tantalizing the idea or how great the enthusiasm, the unfinished manuscript of an unpublished author is worse than worthless. It has negative value, and people must be bribed to read it.

    Oh, I can think of something worse: Someone who has done exactly this and never actually reached “The End”, multiple times. Story of my life. Same with the “I’ll just do a bit of research, when did it become 4 AM?” thing.

    Best of luck on your mad writing ventures, Shamus. =)

  70. Yahzi says:

    Shamus has something few self-published authors have: a platform. He can use his readership here for the initial sales which generate word-of-mouth follow on; he can use his status as a popular blog author to get reviews from other blogs & sites. (Mind you, he earned this platform on the strength of his writing, so it’s only fair!)

    Of course that kind of platform also makes him attractive to industry publishers, too. And apparently steampunk is all the rage these days (sigh). So looking for an agent might be a worthwhile endeavor.

    But, to repeat the obvious, anytime you pay someone to publish you, you aren’t getting published, you’re getting ripped off. Shamus can sell a book printed through Lulu with as little as $20 up-front costs (and that’s for ordering a proof copy of the book.) Real agents don’t charge any fees of any kind, and only get paid when they sell your book.

  71. Cybron says:

    Good luck Shamus! With regards to the wordcount, remember: sometimes you have to kill your darlings.

  72. Numfar says:

    IIRC you have accounts on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. And you have this blog. And your column at the Escapist. All of those are very good places to promote that book.

  73. froogger says:

    So that’s where you’ve been at?! Figures :D
    You do have a unique voice so I believe you can succeed, at least to your artistic aspirations. Provided you manage to unearth the plotline and chisel out the characters of course. Now, as for commercial success I don’t know what it takes, although I have some ideas. Seeing how much muck the big publishers shovel out I’m fairly sure it only takes marketing clout. Although this sounds like a niche product, there are plenty of niche geeks out there who will welcome your wits. In this day and age it should be possible to build a rep by word-of-internet alone quite fast.
    Just remember that if it’s something you’d like to read yourself, it’s good. Being the first time you do it, you might want an editor to help you kill your darlings to make it great. Best of luck!

  74. Zak McKracken says:

    Shamus, when you’re a famous author and your third novel is a bestseller and Terry Pratchett is your best pal and so on …
    We’ll still be your very first fans who stuck with you when you were just a small unknown blogger. So don’t you forget mentioning us in your Nobel Prize speech! I mean, we were with you in those days, right?
    We … you know … supported you, right?
    Like … well … we left incoherent pointless comments on your website, and that’s something!
    Isn’t it? I mean …

    … so don’t you forget us in Literature Heaven, mister! Without us you’re nothing!

    Also: When you make it big I can tell everyone I knew you since forever, and then maybe someone will finally want to be my friend! Yay! Please get famous quick!

  75. lupis42 says:

    Best of luck. I hope to read it one day.

  76. Zekiel says:

    Best of luck Shamus. I think you’re a brilliant writer (which, not surprisingly, is why I read your blog) – keep going!

  77. Deoxy says:

    Wow, COMMENTS!

    I read NONE of them (first time I think I’ve ever said that). This posts strikes VERY close to home for me, too close to see how many other sad saps agree with you. I may bookmark this one, just to show to people.

    Your part about blowing time on wikipedia is particularly apt. If I may be so ridiculous, I compare myself to Tolkien in one way (and one way only, mind you): I’m insanely focused on minutia. Of course, for Tolkien, that’s because, for him, the minutia was the part he was good at (the languages in particular), while for me… eh, I’m just OCD about it, I guess.

    I’m writing a fantasy, and I know the mass of the planet, it’s angle of rotation, how that affects the strength of the seasons, the mass of the moon, how that affects the tides, the distance from the sun (OK, I simplified and used OUR sun… yay, I shortcutted somewhere!), the exact length of the year, I’ve worked out 2 separate cultural calenders (both from advanced cultures that have leap-years as necessary, including the need for an odd one every 300ish years), one of which is luni-solar (like the Jewish calendar), named the days of the week (for both calendars, one of which has 6 day weeks instead of 7), completed an entire army structure (including ranks and titles), performed several population growth simulations to get certain things just right….

    Did I mention I actually have written, too? But no serious headway on the writing (about 100ish pages now?) in almost 3 years… sigh. too many small children around, wife’s health problems…. I hope yours works out. Maybe it could inspire me to… meh. nevermind about that.

  78. Tzeneth says:

    I guess I feel my urge to leave a comment. I believe that all of us have stories we want to tell. Some prefer to write more than others. As others have said, this hits home for me. Every once in a while I get the urge to write this story I came up with when I was younger. The story in my head has always been the bare bones but I have gotten good reviews from friends who I told part of the premise. I’ve always put off, never happy with my writing ability to do it justice. Sometime soon, I think I’ll attempt it. My abilities have grown and my knowledge with it. I hope you too will be able to tell all the stories that are in you. I hope we all are able to tell those tales we want, hope, or need to tell. Good luck and I hope for the best.

  79. As to where she would carry a pistol, for fairly ready accessibility combined with discretion I would recommend a not-readily-noticeable slit in the side of her skirt allowing access to the weapon holstered beneath it, low on the waist/high on the thigh.
    There’s the handbag method, but it’s slow and also too easy to lose a handbag when the untoward goings-on begin.

    Good luck with the book. I’m in the same boat (well, except I work slower and have a steady day job) and feel about the situation of having a half-finished book much the way you described it so well. But I’ve experienced quite a bit of your writing; you write well. You have a good turn of phrase and an engaging style. So your chances are decent I’d say. So, yes, good luck!

  80. Epopisces says:

    Wow this is a long comment thread. You should put a survey at the bottom of the page:
    – Will consider donating or buying your book
    – Will donate
    X Will buy book
    – Will buy book if good
    – Will buy book, video game, movie, and action figures.

    I loved your Free Radical novel, it was an excellent read and I’ve recommended it to others. I’d buy your book sight unseen because of the quality of your writing, so no worries there.

    One thing you may want to consider is letting a team help you out on your research. theBigJ_A jokingly said you should just ask him–well maybe could take him up on his offer. You could get a mailing list together of 10 willing helpers and any time you need something researched send an email (bonus points if they are experts in fields related to the setting/items in your book. Oh, and make sure they are professional enough to cite sources!).

    Of course side trips to Wikipedia are fun too, so it’s up to you. :P

  81. asterismW says:

    I think this is a wonderful idea, and I wish you luck. Just remember that your strength in writing is in writing humor. Free Radical was good; you know how to tell a story and keep it interesting. But DM of the Rings is what blasted you to (relative) Internet fame. Your best blog posts are when you’re being witty or clever (which you almost always are), and The Quaking of WarCrysis 3: Resistance of Black Doom was not excellent because of its revolutionary graphics. Terry Pratchett knows how to tell a story too, but his books wouldn’t be nearly as popular if they weren’t also hilarious. His strength lies in writing humor as well. It’s a very rare gift to be so clever in writing, a gift which you have and which, if you use it, will set your book apart from the thousands of other writers trying to become published authors.

    Again, good luck. I hope to be able to buy your book someday. :)

  82. PinkCoder says:

    You might want to consider doing a Kickstarter project. One of the great things about Kickstarter is that no money exchanges hands until the deadline or the goal is met. It is a really nice way to reward people who want pay ahead of time and even vary the kind of reward based on how much is pledged.

  83. Dude says:

    Phish. Nobody reads anymore, Shamus. Why don’t you make a read aloud book for youtube instead. And then people can comment on it, and other people can read those comments.

  84. Tizzy says:

    I hope you find these words encouraging:

    “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” Richard Bach

    Best of luck!

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