I’ve written a post on Melanie Ansley’s website about five things that fatherhood has taught me about writing. You can check it out here.
I’ve written a post on Melanie Ansley’s website about five things that fatherhood has taught me about writing. You can check it out here.
I haven’t published one of these updates in a couple of months but I’ve been very busy behind the scenes. First of all, I finished the short story I had been working on. After the rolling pin of Beta Reading and editing had flattened all the bumps, it ended up rolling out to 7k.
I paused work on the novel Diary largely because I found the solution to the problem that dogged the project I had been working on in February, nicknamed Spaghetti. If you remember the February Update, I had parked this project, which involves people being trapped in a massive multiplayer. At the time, while I really enjoyed writing it, I could see it had a lot of issues around how much game mechanics and language to include. I didn’t want to knock a few corners off a square and call it a wheel.
So imagine my delight when I discovered the genre LitRPG. This genre, which began in Korea and Russia and is slowly gaining momentum in the west. Popular series include The Land by Aleron Kong, The Way of the Shaman by Vasily Mahanenko and The Phantom Server by Andrei Livadny.
However, one key factor missing from my story was leveling. The focus was on very advanced players at the top of their game. I needed to go back and build up to the book. So I decided to create a trilogy with Spaghetti as the third volume. To keep things simple, I made it Spaghetti 3 and the first two volumes became Spaghetti 1 and Spaghetti 2.
I started out pantsing Spaghetti 1. Simply put, I built up the story letting myself be led by the words I wrote. This process was helped by a killer beginning that just came to me out of the blue. Everything was going along smoothly until I was about 28k words in. Then I discovered a vast chasm between me and where I wanted to go. I took a deep breath and revised what I had done, but the solution wasn’t forthcoming. I got about sixteen chapters in when I decided enough was enough. I must either map my terra incognita or I put it aside. I have a dozen projects clamoring to be written. I gave myself two days.
I started to map out the story on Scapple from the point I had reached to the as yet unknown end. Basically, at each stage I asked what would be the most interesting thing that could happen next. I connected these points with arrows and I deleted lines that went nowhere. And very quickly, everything clicked into place. I even had the inciting incident and setting for the next book.
What I didn’t do was break this tapestry of plot threads into chapters. The exercise wasn’t about prescribing to the finest detail what would happen so that writing the book became a form of transcription. It wasn’t about bashing it to fit some preconceived template. No, I left the story space to grow, to surprise me. But I now have a clear idea where I need to finish and a general direction on how to get there. I’m confident I can get the first draft finished in the next couple of weeks.
I have published a new short story, The Fate Healer, on Amazon.
The genealogist Draston is charged with the impossible. His master, Hamvok the Merciful, craves a royal ancestor or two to legitimize his tyranny. But every avenue of Draston’s research comes to a dead end. Nobility has never sneezed on Hamvok’s ancestors, much less married into them. And now Draston’s time has run out.
To save himself from Hamvok’s violent displeasure, Draston promises to prove the tyrant is descended from a god. In doing so, he commits himself to a path of forgery and sacrilege. His enterprise will risk the wrath of gods. But, far worse, it will draw him to a shadowy figure more terrible than all the gods combined, the Fate Healer.
The cover was supplied by The Cover Collection. Here’s something that may interest those interested in typography. The H is a different font from the rest of the title as the original H looked too much like a small h. The change really suits the theme. 🙂
I spent most of this month working on the Tank project. I was somewhat distracted by the release of The Unconquered Sun. Finished the Rev. 0 Draft (about 32k). A lot of work still to be done on it. There’s a lot of reshaping and rethinking to be done for sure and I’m not sure it is going to be a novella or a novel. Generally, my projects increase in size every draft, so it might reach novel length yet. But the main thing for me is that the story achieves the length necessary for its telling. I’m under no obligation to meet X thousand words.
At the moment I am working on a short story which probably illustrates what will happen with Tank. The Rev.0 was 5k words and the Rev.1 is now at 6.5k, but there’s probably not one word that hasn’t been changed at least once. I like short stories because everything usually clicks into place so much faster (if they click at all). You can see the whole thing taking shape very quickly.
As soon as the Rev. 1 of this story is finished, I’m going to start the Rev. 0 of another project, Diary, a horror novel (hopefully in genre, not execution.) If it gets too dark I might switch to the light fantasy project, Knife. I’m also hoping to complete the Rev. 2 of the short story I am currently working on. This month I will be also releasing the paperback version of The Unconquered Sun.
So, at the start of January, I was working on one project (Spaghetti) and by the end of the month I was working on a different novel (Tank). So what happened? I enjoyed writing Spaghetti. I had a fairly good outline. I liked the characters. The writing needed a lot more fleshing out but that’s the nature of first drafts. I was over 20k through the story when on the morning of Friday 22nd I began to question whether the story was original enough. I knew that under the bonnet, there was something new, but I worried it would become evident too late in the story. By 10 am, I decided to park it. I worked on a second draft of short story for the day while I mulled what to do next.
On Monday, I started work on Tank, because I finally figured out how to overcome the POV issues the story posed. I’m very happy with the direction the story is taking. While I don’t have an exhaustive outline, I have most of the key events already written in some rough fashion. In a week, I had four and a half chapters completed (8k words). The writing felt solid, though obviously it needs polish and there are plenty of burrs to be planed away. Research held up writing a couple of times. Sometimes, it’s easier to wait to learn the questions before looking for answers. You can waste a lot of time on superfluous detail only to find it’s a waste of time because there’s some underlying fundamental flaw in your basic premise.
I am hoping to have the first draft finished by St. Patrick’s Day. In the meantime, The Unconquered Sun will be finally released on 11th February.
People are asking me about my new novel will be out (The Unconquered Sun which will be released on Amazon on 11th February 2016), but my focus has already moved on. Before Christmas, I mapped out five new projects. I gave them all generic working titles for the moment. Will all of them hatch into novels? I don’t know yet. Even the calmest waters can hide rocks to sink the unwary. But each idea has its own merit.
The first and foremost I am working on is called (note this is not the finished title) Spaghetti. I hope to have the first draft finished by St. Patrick’s Day. Considering my first book took 12 years and my second book technically took 14 years, this is ambitious for me. The book is fully outlined and *cough* is the most straightforward of the five projects. The biggest challenge is that it is essentially a science fiction story where fantasy sensibilities predominate.
The second, Knife, is a light fantasy set in a secondary world. The main characters are pretty much there as are the main plot twists. I’ve done some exploratory writing to map it out and have about nearly a quarter of the first draft already written.
Tank is a science fiction colonization story. Again, a quarter is already written but the mechanics of the POV have yet to be worked out. I am planning to write this in the present tense.
Diary is a dark fantasy/horror. Like Tank, there’s a few viewpoint issues to decide plus some research to do, but the basic plot is advanced and I have a chunk of the first draft written.
Photocosm 4 (Photocosm 3 being The Parting Gift) is a sequel to The Golden Rule and kicks off a new series. Some of the survivors from The Unconquered Sun may appear but the focus moves westward to the city of Formicary. The first half of the story is pretty much worked out but the second half needs a bit of work.
Oh yes, I will be also working on some short stories.
In short, I will be sitting in front of a screen A LOT this year. 🙂
I plan to do a monthly update on progress to keep you all up to date.
There are a lot of good on-line articles on writing and publishing, but there are some not-so-good ones also. Nothing is more annoying than coming across a tweet with a link to say The Three Key Things You Must Know Before You Publish only to find when you click on the article tells you absolutely nothing of any use. Or, like Fifty-Five Short Story Competitions for Jack Russell Owners, the article turns out to be just a list of links, half of which don’t work, with a disclaimer at the bottom that the author isn’t entirely sure that these are short story competitions or that the organizers like dogs.
With that in mind I’ve written my own bait click article.
Ten Critical Things You Must Do To Write A Book:
(1) Breathe. Dead people cannot write a book.
(2) Open your eyes. Otherwise, you cannot see what you are writing.
(3) Have an original idea. It can be fiction or non-fiction. Non-fiction is generally truer than fiction.
(4) Have something on which to record your story. Examples include word processors, blank pages, vellum, papyrus, and clay tablets.
(5) Use the appropriate tool to record your story. For example, pens and quills work well for blank pages, but not for tablets and computer screens.
(6) Write in a language you understand.
(7) Make sure you understand the concepts of ‘book’ and ‘novel’. Check them out on Wikipedia.
(8) Read lots of books about writing and publishing. You can find these books in book shops and on-line stores. They will cost money, but they are worth it if you want to build a successful career.
(9) Get a dictionary. If you don’t know what this is, look it up.
(10) Read my book as a good example of how the finished product should look. It’s cheap and it’s on sale at Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Itunes, etc. There’s even a paperback.
DISCLAIMER: The author of this article does not maintain that this is an exhaustive list of steps, or that all steps listed are required in every case to write a book. The order of the steps is not prescriptive. The reader should do his/her own research.
When I am in the mood for music while I am writing, I often turn to classical music or movie soundtracks. However, Two Steps To Hell dominates my favorite playlist. They are an American music production company. Their music is used on many film, trailer, video game and television soundtracks. You also will hear their music on advertisements. It is very dramatic, powerful music, ideal for writing battle scenes. My favorite albums are Invincible, Archangel and SkyWorld. If you want to learn more about them, check out their website.
Some people love them. Some people hate prologues. Some skip them. Agents don’t like them, apparently.
Personally, I don’t like prologues that have only tangential relevance to the story, and I don’t like infodumps. Some people love a good six page history lesson. Some people might love tangential prologues too, though I have never come across anyone who publicly stated it.
If a prologue is interesting and relevant, I have absolutely no problem with it. I have even written one or two.
This post is not really about the virtue of prologues. It is about the lack of virtue of a certain piece of advice related to them. It runs something like this:
A writer walks into a bar and says to the barman, “I want to keep my book’s prologue but, if I do, my book will never get an agent. Prologues have gone out of fashion like the letter thorn.”
The barman scratches his head and answers, “I just serve drinks, but it seems to me, the best thing you can do is scrap the prologue.”
The writer jumps up and down. “BUT I CAN’T!! IT’S MY BEST WRITING EVER!! I LOVE IT MORE THAN LIFE ITSELF!!”
The barman waits for the writer to calm, pours him a stiff drink, and says, “Okay. This is what you do. Make the prologue the first chapter. Agents will read it and never realize you slipped them a prologue.”
If this reads like a joke, it is because it is. Don’t be the butt of it.
Turning your prologue into Chapter 1 is a terrible idea.
(1) Readers will assume Chapter 1 is the start of the story and the characters it introduces are important to the plot. When that turns out not to be the case, they will be confused/betrayed/annoyed.
(2) Agents will work out that Chapter 1 is a disguised prologue when they start Chapter 2. Will they be impressed? No. Their reaction is likely to mirror that of the readers.
If a prologue can successfully pass as the first chapter, then it was never a prologue in the first place.
I have read a lot of different books by a lot of different authors, some renowned, some unknown, and I have come to the conclusion that the SF writer needs the reader’s trust. In these days of relatively cheap fiction, losing the reader’s trust is the end of the relationship. The reader isn’t likely to look at that author’s work again.
When the trust is there, readers are likely to cut the writer some slack. That unexciting training lecture in the second chapter will be glossed over in the hope of something more interesting to come (soon). The reader will patiently wait for an explanation why the aliens were doing handstands while they planned their invasion of Earth. The reader will accept the nonsensical on the assumption that it will all make sense at some stage.
Of course, if your work is well known, if there are a lot of voices enthusing about it, the reader’s trust comes a little easier. But suppose, you aren’t. Suppose you’re self-published like me. Trust can be a fragile thing. Your main focus must be on securing it.
I know that very deliberately, it is mine.