What Are Colours?

K Tempest Bradford on twitter linked to an post of hers from a few years ago, Mental Noodling About Color, Ancient Peoples, and Alien Races, which got me thinking.

The fact the spectrum of colours we use to describe the world came about fairly recently (really recently when talking about the whole span of the human species) and before then people talked about colour in very different ways. The author Kameron Hurley linked to this page on Ancient Greek Color Vision that says how for the Greeks the words they used to describe colour were more than just about the tone as it were. It was about the qualities they associated with that colour, the texture of it, shadow and many other elements.

Obviously this isn’t something we think about much as we take it for granted that we have this vast vocabulary of words to paint the world around us in. But what if we didn’t? Or, perhaps more interestingly from the perspective of a budding sci-fi writer, what if that changed in the future?

It’s got me thinking about how I talk about the details of the settings in my books. Colours not only describe the world around us but also use them to define it. In stories set a thousand years in the future, where the galaxy as been colonised and interstellar travel is common, wouldn’t our concept of what colours mean have changed?

With space itself being so freaking big, and so black for the most part, I wonder if the old dichotomy of light = good and dark = bad would remain. I’d hope not given the current worrying implications it has towards skin colour but then our society as a whole still needs to deal with the racism that exists today which is something people far more qualified than me have talked about with far greater authority.

It strikes me as a possibility that with a greater part of the population being exposed to space, and with all the changes that spreading across the galaxy would bring, that a new language around colours and how the world is described might evolve, existing words used in new ways to define the world around us.

Definitely something I’m going to think about more and try and develop, but I thought it was interesting enough to share.

One Day…

You tell yourself you’ll get round to doing it one day. That book you’ve always wanted to write, or getting started practicing your painting. One day you’ll start. You’re too busy right now, not ready yet to jump into it. But don’t worry, one day you will.

One day is a filthy lie.

One day is a mantra that puts you off doing what you want.

It persuades you that there is always more you need to do before starting. That it doesn’t matter, you’ll get round to it.

One day is a comfort we tell ourselves so we don’t worry about not doing anything right now.

It soothes our worries, and tells us it’ll be okay one day.

One day is a temptress that seduces us with its promises. It lulls us into believing its mantra.

Well bollocks to one day.

Write. Create. Today. Not tomorrow, or the day after, or sometime next week.


Art is not created by putting it off, art is created with practice and work.

Do something today. Whether that be outline a chapter, write a sentence, do a five minute sketch. Just do something. And then do something tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after that.

You might after a while you’ve created something. It might not be good, or up to the standards you’ve set yourselves.

But you will have made something. And you can be damn proud about that.

It’s a hell of a lot more than saying ‘one day’ will ever have you create.

Go out and art, let forth the ideas in your brain. Enjoy yourself.

Variety is King – Chapter and Sentence Length

I’ve almost finished up my refresh of the outline for The Word and the biggest thing I’ve noticed is the number of chapters in it.

Oranje had 45 chapters (including progress), each of pretty much 2,500 words. The first outline of the word had 57 and from first draft work the chapters were turning out around the same number of words.

This outline has 32.

There’s the same amount of stuff going on in the story, probably even a bit more than the previous outline. The biggest change is I’m trying to break away from such consistent chapter sizes. It’s often something I see talked about on writing forums, people often worried about how long a chapter should be and people saying the length they aim for.

I find that really dangerous advice.

Equally sized chapters are boring and can slow down stories. Well not just on their own but if each scene is playing out over the same number of words there is an inevitable amount of consistency to the pacing.

Letting chapters be as big or as small as they need to be will help let the individual scenes thrive. There can be fast paced action ones that aren’t too long, and slower more dialog based ones where the reader can take a break and absorb the characters and story.

Now this has to be done in conjunction with other tools. You can have long but fast paced scenes and short but calming ones. But when you combine the length of each scene with the amount of information/action that happens in it, alongside that other great pacing tool of sentence length, you have more levers to control your story.

I could write a bit about sentence structure myself, but I won’t as there is a fantastic example that already exists from Gary Provost:

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.

Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length.

And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbal-sounds that say listen to this, it is important.

Chapter and sentence length and tools and weapons in the writers armoury to add variety and better control the pace and flow of their work.

It’s something I am to make better use of myself with The Word. We’ll see – as always – how it turns out.

Reimagining the World

As part of working on The Word  and the United setting as a whole I’ve gone back and looked at some of the decisions I made about that and how I’m changing them this time round to make things more interesting.

Some of the information below is sort of spoilers for the setting of the United books so read on if you want to.

The general setting is the same. It’s a thousand years in the future and humanity has spread across the galaxy. This was done under the banner of the Commonwealth of Earth and considered the ‘Golden Age’ of our species. Until it all collapsed of course as all empires do.

The Commonwealth

Originally the idea was of this huge gap between the Collapse and the setting of the books, about 5 centuries, but I think its more interesting if the gap is smaller. If you look at that most famous of empires – the Romans – the immediate aftermath of the collapse in the West is a bunch of new kingdoms appearing all seeking to take on the mantle of the old empire as it had been in power for so long.

Related to this is how in Oranje I had it that the regions of the galaxy were pretty much isolated from each other, but I no longer think that works in a setting where there is the Net to connect all worlds together. Using the example of the fall of the Roman empire again trade continued over great distances even during the greatest periods of collapse.

This had led me to change this aspect of the setting. Instead of a hugely isolated with a dim and distant memory of the Commonwealth and humanities Golden Age, instead it is a more connected but still broken galaxy. Nations use the traditions and titles of the Commonwealth to claim their legitimacy as its successor. The Commonwealth itself is still there, though much reduced in territory.

It’s a galaxy that looks to the past to remember the glories of day gone by, and seeking powerful leaders to recreate the days of old. A galaxy where the figure of the past looms over everything that happens. Nations compete with one another to take the place of the Commonwealth and make sure that as much of possible links them to it. I think this makes for a much more interesting setting than the more black and white approach from before, and allows for stories that can be connected across the galaxy.

The other key aspects of setting that are changing from how I did them in Oranje are the Curators and the pseudos.


The Curators – protectors of the Net across the galaxy – I think were too much in it. The idea of a galaxy spanning organisation that controlled access to the Net is a bit much, and also made them less interesting than they could have been. Instead I want them to be a group that want an independently run Net, and who are seen as experts on it, but who don’t control all of it and are sort of outsiders. So more an independent group with an alternative way of having their society who want to see change than some hidden galaxy spanning group.

I think this opens up a lot more story telling possibilities, as them wanting to warn people about threats they might discover through the Net might not always go well as not everyone respects them or cares about them. It also I think lets them be more involved in the galaxy as a whole instead of so isolated from it.


Pseudos were a late addition to Oranje, I didn’t add them in until the 2nd draft. I know they’re not an original idea – a sentient computer program made from the combining of a human mind and code – but I felt they added an interesting dimension in the book, and allow for another way to show the differences between societies. In Oranje they’re only part of the Curators but I’m going to be changing that.

Having them be more common throughout the galaxy allows them to be part of a lot of different groups. Before, when they were just with the Curators, no longer feels right as I’ve portrayed them as having free thought and with that surely must go a decision of who they want to work with?

So they’re going to be more common in The Word and the other United novels but a lot of nations and people will still be suspicious of them and how they’re created, with some nations banning them entirely. Though how effectively you can block a sentient program that lives on the Net is a different matter entirely.

I like discussing my thought progress and how I build some aspects of the setting I’m working with. I hope this post helps explain some of the changes I’m making and how they should hopefully lead to a more interesting backdrop and scenarios for what I write.

New Year – Ongoing Progress

2015 is upon us and it feels like time for another progress update on my writing, but first a little look back at 2014.

2014 was…mixed. It started out well with the publishing of Oranje but the rest of the year was mostly taken up with false starts. First with the planned second novel in the September series – Choices –  and then with another series I started work on. In total I wrote almost 70,000 words on both before realising my writing was progressing in the wrong direction.

As mentioned in my last post I’m now working on The Word, effectively a stand alone novel covering the entirety of the story I had planned for the September series but as a single book. It will be the first of hopefully many novels set in a shared universe.

Got quite a few words for that done so the end of the year was much better than the middle.

Oh I’m also in the wonderful Stories on the Go anthology featuring many fantastic indie authorslike Hugh Howey.

My progress on that has slowed down since NaNoWriMo. Slowed down a lot. I’ve been focused on my day job a lot but now realise I need to make sure I keep time for personal stuff outside the office. Whilst not many words have gone down on the page I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the setting for The Word works, and how it feels to the people who live in it.

Expect some more blog posts soon about hope, characters, setting, familiarity and hopefully some snippets of parts of The Word when I get to the end of the first draft and begin to polish it up a bit.

I know I’ve said I’d do more blog posts a few time before, so harass me if I don’t! I do enjoy talking on here, even if I don’t always get my point across as clearly as I like. I also want to try and get involved in more conversations in the genre community. To start that off here’s a few recent interesting posts to digest:

Announcing The Word – the first United novel – and the end of Oranje

So I posted here a while ago about a change of plans with my writing. Not the first I’ve had since I finished Oranje, but this should be the last. After it released I began work on the 2nd book in the series – Choices – but stopped when I’d not got very far through the first draft. I felt I needed to work on a different project to improve how I write characters and the flow of my writing.

That project, like the September series Oranje was part of, was going to be a series. This time of three novels rather than four. I outlined and wrote part of a first draft of the opener to that series before deciding I was on the wrong path again.

The issue for me has never been coming up with ideas. Christ I’ve got pages of ideas for stories I want to write. I think that will always be true.

The problem’s been keeping my focus, on finishing whole stories.

Sure I finished Oranje, but it was only the first part in a series. And I know I could always expand my ideas into series after series after series but that’s no use if I don’t truly finish any of them.

What I need is a setting within which I tell a series of standalone stories that are all great on their own, the common setting serving as a link between them all so each can enrich the other by revealing aspects of the back story or universe not covered in the other books.

So without further ado I’m pleased to announce…

The Word, the first United novel:

Three will decide the fate of millions.

War is coming to the region of September, war it cannot predict or prepare itself for without help. But the impending invasion has not gone unnoticed. The Curators, protectors of the Net, have seen the coming storm. They know that millions have died already.

All of September must be warned and an alliance built to fight the enemy that threatens them all.

Three people will be sent out to do this perilous mission. The future of September is theirs to decide.

(the above description is very much rough and work in progress right now but you get the idea).

The United will serve as the setting for a whole bunch of standalone novels that will cover the rise of the United – a nation seeking to unite all of humanity – one thousand years in the future.

But what about Oranje?

Ah yes. As some of you may have noticed the description for The Word above shares quite a few similarities to the story of Oranje.

That’s because it is Oranje really, well it will cover the entire story I meant for the September series in a single book all told from the perspective of Isi and The Three. But don’t expect to see large chunks of Oranje copy and pasted into it, it’s a rewrite from scratch so it’s all new and you’ll see a lot of differences in characters and story.

So what for people who already own Oranje? I’m delisting the book as we speak from the various sites it is currently available on and won’t be available for purchase.

If you bought Oranje you can email me at jacklusted[at]outlook.com and I will send you a free copy of The Word in whatever format you want when it releases. I don’t want anyone to feel ripped off.

The end result of all this should be better books – complete books! – and a more enjoyable experience for everyone.

It’s a big step to take but the right one for me and my writing.

I also intend to be more open with progress on The Word so expect work in progress chapters to appear both here and perhaps on sites like Wattpad once I get to work on the second draft.

I hope you will enjoy this journey with me and thanks for reading.