What are you writing?

Continuing the discussion from NaNoWriMo Talk 2020: NaNoWriMo 2020 is dead, long live the WriMo!

On the instructions of my brain care specialist, from tomorrow I will set aside three hours on each of five days per week to sit at my desk and write. My loving family are on instructions (from my brain care specialist) to keep their skepticism to themselves and treat that time with the same respect that they would if I had commuted to an office and was working. But to quell my own skepticism I have to treat that writing time with the same commitment. What to write?

  • I have already started on Forty Exotic Worlds, a weakly-structured piece of non-narrative fiction that will constitute a slab of background material for my SF RPG setting, Flat Black. That’s very near the point where I can start churning out draft.

  • An idea for a novella or long short story has sprung upon me, and is yammering to be started right away. It’s the story of a clandestine operative making their way across the planet Sehausie to carry out a clandestine operation, and dealing with the difficulty that on Sehausie men and women are permitted access to very different spaces. It is also yammering to be written in first person, and from the viewpoint of a protagonist who is distinctly not a straight man. I understand that that is not something that I am likely to succeed at. But on the other hand a person’s reach ought to exceed their grasp.


All joking aside, that sounds amazing! And I completely agree that you should write outside your comfort zone. The premise sounds interesting, and as long as you’re respectful with the material and your intentions there is no reason you couldn’t pull it off very well!

I’m currently 1,450 words into Novel One for 2021 (currently titled “Wanderer Among the Stars”, but that is definitely going to change). I managed to figure out the “hook” that gets our two protagonists together (basically, spices… I’m going to build a universe where food is genetically engineered by a small set of cartels so it all tastes the same no matter where you go, and therefore spices are once again the interplanetary currency). I’m excited! I’m already revising the story as I go, and the feedback from people in the old thread was a huge help in that regard!

Goal is 75,000 by the end of the month-ish (maybe early Feb), and then editing that enough that my professional editor can get to work on it shortly afterwards.

What… could possibly go wrong?


I love this. It makes a ton of sense psychologically, I think. Being able to put traditional spices on your vat-grown nutrigloop (or whatever) not only has a bit of a luxury feel, but I think it would genuinely help reconcile people to that food by creating a sense of “making it your own” and make it seem more food-like.


09:30 on a weekday. Time to start my first shift in the word mine.

The rogue effective is about to arrive on Sehausie in a feminine presentation. Working title: I Was A Rogue Effective.

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Turns out? Not great at writing while their is an attempted coup 800km away.

Got about 500 words done today. Guitar practice (specifically, my partner’s first-ever music lesson! She’s learning bass!) in about an hour and a half. I am going to go drink something stiff (I’m a total pushover when it comes to alcohol, so probably a shot of maple whisky), and close my eyes and hope everything turns out more-or-less okay in a few hours because f-this noise.

Still. 500 words ain’t nothing. 2,000 down, 73,000 to go.


Most of this morning’s effort went into revising the entry on Tau Ceti in my Forty Exotic Worlds w.i.p. That’s serving as a testbed of the scope and format of the entries, and when I am happy that I have it right I will start churning out similar entries for the other 39 worlds.

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Today’s writing was involved in trying to describe taste without using any words associated with spices or flavours my protagonist wouldn’t be familiar with.

Trickier than it sounds. 3,500 words down, and about 15,000 words behind where I want to be by the end of tomorrow. We shall see how tomorrow fares.


Today I wrote the introduction for Forty Exotic Worlds and a bit over half the explanation of entries and key to the tabbed data. 1,800 words.


For the first time this year I’ve managed to get to my desk and look at my project. I know it’s two weeks in and I haven’t done a thing -.-

In any case, I have a question. As a non-native speaker. Quote from my project…

“You weren’t saying anything,” said Morgan.

Some books do it this way others have the speaker first, like this:

“You weren’t saying anything,” Morgan said.

What’s up with that? Is it just writer’s choice? What if I am not consistent throughout the story?

I feel the top variant looks better on “paper” but it feels wrong especially once I add pronouns into the mix like this:

“You weren’t saying anything,” said she.

Can any of you shed some light on this for me?

English “said” is a word that generally fades into the background. For any given sentence, use the form that makes the sentence flow better.


Then what happens with other dialogue tags? I know that some frown upon dialogue tagging with anything but “said” and “asked”. But what do I do, if I want my characters to shout or cry out or whisper? Is it the same?

“You weren’t saying anything,” whispered Morgan.

This is really one of the things I cannot grasp about English. In German there is one correct way to write this:

“Du hast nichts gesagt,” flüsterte Morgan.

Putting the subject up front here would be wrong.

One could put it like this:

“Du hast nichts gesagt.” Morgan flüsterte.

But this has a different meaning (translating to: “You weren’t saying anything.” Morgan was whispering.)

Sorry about the ranting nature of this, this has been bugging me for a long time and re-reading what I wrote before Christmas just had me stumble across several instances of this.

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Other expressions are OK, provided they’re used when the characters would actually be doing that. Using them to avoid repeating “said” is very intrusive, and using them several times in successive sentences will read weirdly.

Written English isn’t quite the same language as spoken English.


I speak written English.


I’m afraid that on the forums too much of my written English is more like the spoken version with run-on sentences, ellipsis and missing commas. Commas are especially bad, even when I write in German. I used to get downgraded for this in school and haven’t really learned it since. I try to be mindful of it but don’t always succeed.

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I don’t think we’ve had a direct answer yet, so let me try.

“Cheese sandwiches,” said Morgan - this is fine, completely neutral.
“I prefer anchovies,” Morgan said - this is also fine and neutral. I feel like it’s slightly less common, but that’s all.

Non-Proper Nouns
“Cheese sandwiches,” said the pilot - this is fine, completely neutral.
“I prefer anchovies,” the pilot said - this is also fine and neutral. I feel like it’s slightly less common, but that’s all.

“I prefer anchovies,” he said - this is the normal, neutral form.
“Cheese sandwiches,” said he - unusual and usually jarring. It’s most often found in poetry, and some archaic writing.

Occasionally I’ve seen it used as a response with a follow-on clause:
“You are infuriating!” said Morgan, glancing at his daughter.
“I get it from my father,” said she, sprawling back on the gravity couch and riffling a pack of cards with worrying skill.

Different dialogue tags
“Nothing is better than pineapple,” Morgan whispered. - this is also fine, and simply varies the dialogue tag.
“Nothing is better than pineapple,” whispered Morgan. - exactly like the previous one.
“Nothing is better than pineapple.” Morgan whispered. - this works like “Du hast nichts gesagt.” Morgan flüsterte., and uses the same punctuation. Like German, it separates the speech and the action.
“Nothing is better than pineapple.” Whispered Morgan. - this is incorrect.

If there’s anything you don’t feel like bringing to the forums, I’m always happy to help out if you have any questions :slight_smile: feel free to get in touch directly.


To me* this feels a bit awkward – not exactly wrong, but the separation of sentences is implying that these are two separate actions, and clearly they aren’t. It would be likely to kick me out of the flow of reading while I tried to work out what was actually meant, which isn’t ideal.

* and while I do try to analyse my use of language this is grew-up-speaking-it familiarity, and an awful lot of English seems to be what feels right at the time. Like that weirdness about the order of adjectives; there’s no official rule, but “a red big bus” sounds wrong while “a big red bus” is fine. (Seconding Shim’s offer.)


Yes, I agree - I thought that was Yashima’s point though (correct me if I’m wrong!). If I was really using this construction, it’d be a context like:
“Nothing is better than pineapple.” Morgan whispered softly into his phone, but Sally didn’t catch the words.
the same way you might write:
“Nothing is better than pineapple.” Morgan opened the door.

Otherwise, as Yashima said, it would be the present progressive:
“Nothing is better than pineapple.” Morgan was whispering, trying not to wake the baby.


Probably too early in the morning for me.



Thanks for giving those extensive explanations especially for the variant with the pronouns. It all matches with my gut feelings but I am not always sure I can trust those with English.

I agree that “red big bus” feels wrong, it is the same in German “der grosse rote Bus” is much better than the other way round. I am sure there’s a reason for that and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is something that transcends (some) languages.

PS: my “Morgan” is a girl :wink:


Ah, I’ve only encountered it in Welsh men, but that would be from living near Wales, probably.

I foolishly set up a Twitter poll for which RPG thing I should try to actually finish. Unless things change in the next four hours, apparently what I’m writing is GURPS Martial Arts styles for goblins, dwarves and associated hangers-on…