Oct 312013

Now that I’ve had a chance to read through and digest all of the feedback on the New Book, I feel much better about it than I did. The deep flaws are still present and the text is going to require a substantial redraft, but I think I have a good handle on how to approach that. It’s going to require a complete overhaul of one character, a refocusing of another, some delayed reveals, some increased stakes, and a bit more attention to event planning, but I think the core of the story is strong enough that it’s worth doing it right.

In the interim, I’m just shy of 10,000 words into Ashes’ sequel—henceforth referred to as Alour-Tan II until I reveal the book’s real title. My writing time of late has been divided between that, organizing the New Book feedback, and getting my writing folders into a more coherent and backed up format, so I haven’t made as much new writing progress as I’d like.1 Still, the time hasn’t been spent idle and I think it’ll pay dividends in the long run.

My current goal is to hammer the New Book into shape during November2 and send back out to my Betas for a new read-through in December. That will, I hope, free me up to continue working on Alour-Tan II throughout December and complete a draft of that by early January ’14. The New Book and Alour-Tan II would both, then, be 2014 releases, with Alour-Tan III hot on their heels.3 I don’t quite want to commit to Alour-Tan III coming out in 2014 at this point, but I wouldn’t call it a completely outlandish notion, either.

I’ve also received the New Book’s cover art that I commissioned from friend and former 38 Studios coworker James Ball and it is freaking awesome. I can’t wait to show it off. Thanks, James!

  1. Assuming a target of 1,000 words per weekday, I should be at 23,000 words on Alour-Tan II by this point. []
  2. I won’t technically be doing NaNoWriMo, but it seems a good timetable to use for the rewrite. []
  3. Assuming Alour-Tan II doesn’t need the same giant rewrite that Ashes and the New Book both have. I have high hopes for it, though, since I’ve known for a long while where this story was/is/will be going. []
Oct 032013

The feedback from my Beta Readers has been flowing in and it paints a rather bleak picture, confirming many of the quiet misgivings I already had but nevertheless hoped were merely the voice of self-doubt that plagues anyone involved in an artistic pursuit. No, not this time. That was the voice of my unforgiving inner critic telling me that while the world I’d crafted held great promise, the story I ultimately told had massive flaws. Contrary to my goal of releasing the New Book this year, it sounds like it’s got at least a month (or more) of serious rework ahead of it before it’ll even be worthy of another read-through.

As I said to Cody the other day, “I can tell you exactly what Ashes is about. I can tell you exactly what [the sequel to Ashes, the title of which I haven’t yet announced] is about. I can’t tell you exactly what [the New Book] is about.” That really encapsulates the problem. I can tell you what it was supposed to be about, what concepts I wanted to explore with it, what personal struggles I wanted my characters to deal with, but none of that ends up in the text in a clear way. Bits of it are there, but they don’t come across to the reader in an effective manner.

One of my Betas, on hearing me express my woe, reminded me that I had asked for harsh criticism and that Beta was absolutely right. My frustration is not at all with the criticism received; I am glad to have it and delighted that I know people who are capable of giving it. My frustration is with myself, for having spent so much time putting together a work that doesn’t ultimately meet my own standards, much less prove sufficiently entertaining for others. I’m disappointed, but not with the feedback or those giving it; if anything, the quality of feedback is a silver lining.

Speaking of the sequel to Ashes, I started writing it on the 1st of the month. I plan to continue working on it until at least the 21st, which is when I’ve asked my Betas to have submitted all of their feedback. At that point, I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do. Stop [Ashes‘ sequel] to retool and rewrite [the New Book]? Keep working on [Ashes’ sequel] to let [the New Book] breathe for a bit? I don’t know. Part of me is tempted to simply shelve [the New Book] and call it a learning experience. The rest of me is telling that melodramatic inner teenager to stop moping, man up, and fix it.

I’m taking a slightly different approach to planning for [Ashes’ sequel] that I hope will make the story and characters more immediately engaging. One problem that plagued Ashes as well as [the New Book] is that things don’t really start happening until about a third of the way into the book. That’s a great way to kill off a reader’s interest. While I  enjoy writing the “let’s play out all of the steps that arrange for the action” scenes, it leaves a reader asking, “What’s the story, though? Why do I care?” I know why I care, because I know where they’ve all been and where they’re all going, so the “director’s cut” is of sentimental interest to me. Kill your darlings, the saying goes.

On an unrelated note, I’m giving some thought to writing some short, few-thousand word stories–vignettes, really–to better polish both my characterization and streamline my plotting. Historically, I’ve been very leery about approaching short fiction of any sort, feeling more suited to writing what I like to read: novels. But I think there are some lessons I need to learn to improve my storytelling and some of those lessons might come more quickly if I force myself to write in short bursts; if I don’t have a whole novel to flesh out a character, or build up a plot. TBD. I’ve got a lot of irons in a lot of fires right now.

Anyway, that’s where things stand on the writing front for those following along at home.

An explosion of words

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Mar 032012

My, oh my. Where does the time go?

My astonishing silence around these parts is due in large measure to two things. First, holidays happened. Second, SW:TOR happened. Third, and most important, writing happened. I’ve collected as much beta reader feedback as I can hope to at this point and have resumed putting fingers to keyboard. The third draft of Ashes is underway at full steam. I am planning to have it finished before the month is out, at which point it goes to my wife for meticulous line-editing. Once she is satisfied that my word choices won’t result in horrific embarrassment for all time, it’s time to publish.

One of the recent1 impediments to proceeding on Draft Three was a problem of structure. While the beginning and end of the book are right where I wanted them, the middle got aimless and dragged. There was no flow to the largest Act in the book. I took a few steps back from it and did something I should’ve done from the outset: I wrote down the whole story as a point-for-point treatment; a glorified outline, if you will. In such a pared-down form2, it was easy to see where the story flow faltered. Less easy was figuring out how to fix it. Sitting with Cody and throwing ideas at her, we managed to sort through the chaff and find a thread along which the story makes sense. It’s resulted in some larger changes than I anticipated making in this draft3, but they are all changes I am excited about. The thought of editing this draft is exhilarating rather than daunting.

I’ve also started using the trial of Scrivener, which a number of authors that I follow swear by. After playing with it for a few days, I can see why. Once my trial’s up, I am almost certainly going to spend the $40 to buy it.

Related to the above, I have made the decision to self-publish Ashes once it’s finished. I’ve been waffling over whether or not to self-publish through Kindle / Smashwords / et. al. or to query agents/publishers. I’ve read enough horror stories lately about the Big Six, and seen enough success stories from self-publishers, that I’d already been leaning in that direction. The entire face of publishing is changing because of the sudden explosion of eBooks. I think I’d be a fool to ignore it. Coupled with thinking about my writing not only as a creative endeavor, but also as a business/financial one, it’s the one that seems to make the most sense. True, it means I won’t see my book(s) in a bookstore, but it also means that I don’t have to jump through someone else’s hoops to tell my stories, nor deal with some of the uglier aspects of traditional publishing.

Following Ashes, I have my pick of next projects. I have two more books that finish out the story that Ashes begins. Like Star Wars, Ashes can be read as a complete experience unto itself. You don’t get the full story without the other two books, though. In addition, I have an idea for a series of indefinite length centering on a female paranormal/supernatural investigator. Think Dresden meets Buffy meets the Winchester brothers, with a heavy emphasis on her relationships with the people in her life, and you’ll have some idea of that one. I’ve also got another set of stories set in the same world as Ashes, but far removed from it geographically, centering on another female protagonist — Belle LaMairian. Moving away from fantasy, I have a ton of sci-fi story ideas I could develop, as well. I think I’ll let Ashes sit for a bit and start working on the Dresden+Buffy+Winchester+romance+investigation smorgasbord next, since that’s an idea I’m excited about right now. That’s not to say the others don’t excite me; my mind is just active with that one right now.

All in all, things have been going very well. I’m going to try to post more regularly4, maybe even get into a *gasp* daily cadence! We shall see.

  1. As in, in the last week []
  2. A mere four pages []
  3. I cut an entire major journey, a major location, and and encounter with a political power. In its stead, I elevated the importance of a main character, completely destroyed said location, destroyed another location while I was at it, increased the political goings-on that happen around the main characters, and amped up the stakes for the climax of the book. []
  4. Ha, have we heard that before? []