I received the proof copy of The Taesian Chronicles in paperback, and after reviewing it, I approved it. It should show up as available on Amazon.com within 3-5 days. I also uploaded the Kindle version of the trilogy to Amazon. I expect it to be available within 24-36 hours.
Do you have Steve Miller stuck in your head now? Sorry.
I look at the calendar and see that it’s October 14th and feel blown away by how quickly the last two months have gone by. I think September only had 17 days in it.
Since August I have spent most afternoons practicing guitar, keyboard, bass and drums. I’m learning all four instruments with the goal of writing music inspired by my first novel, Ohlen’s Arrow. That is going well but except for savants, learning to play and compose music is not an overnight endeavor. I’ve played all these instruments in the past, so fortunately I’m not starting from ground zero, but I still have a long way to go.
I’ve also been thinking about continuing my Taesia series of novels. The next step would be to write book 5. I already have the bulk of the plot figured out, but haven’t formally nailed down the outline. An avid reader of mine recently shared their view that I really need to keep writing and continue the story. We’ll see.
Currently I’m reading Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy. Although it’s a real page turner, I’m struck by how expository Clancy is. The old maxim, “Show me, don’t tell me” is one Clancy apparently never heard. Unlike popular belief, rules are not made to be broken but you certainly can if you know about them and have a good reason. In Clancy’s case, this book wouldn’t work without all the ‘tell me’ expository text.
In the cycling part of my life, I recently purchased a Wahoo KICKR Core smart trainer. I previously had a traditional spin bike but sold it as it was uncomfortable and had very poor ergonomics. The smart trainer will be hooked up to Zwift for a virtual riding experience. I may write a review after I’ve used it a bit. It will be nice to train on my own bike (Trek Domane AL5) rather than a rigid and poor substitution like a spin bike.
The writing methods of John Irving (The Door in the Floor) and Stephen King (The Shining) couldn’t be more different. Both seem to have strong views about the right way to write. Last year I read King’s, Stephen King on Writing and was blown away when he talked about his writing process, but was even more impacted by how strongly he feels about it.
According to King, organization kills creativity.
John Irving, on the other hand, takes an approach that would make King’s eye twitch in barely contained rage and frustration. Irving’s first action is to write the last line of his book. He then outlines and defines every step that will be taken to lead the reader from page 1 to that culmination.
I developed my own writing style before I knew anything about King and Irving’s methods. In fact, I had never heard of John Irving until I’d already published my second novel. I ran across a YouTube video of a speech he gave where he described his writing process. It almost perfectly mirrors my own.
Later, when I read Stephen King on Writing and I learned how the master does it, I found myself asking, “How is that even possible?” (He starts with a blank page and just writes.) Of course, Stephen King is a writing savant. He could write a 1,000 page novel with one thesaurus tied behind his back.
My process can best be described as organized, linear creativity. I invent my characters and the things that happen to them in a series of brainstorming sessions, then I use an organized, methodical approach to refine those broad ideas into specific details.
When discussing my writing approach with readers and budding authors, I describe it by saying, “I don’t write novels, I write scenes.” This is because I outline my ideas down to the scene level during my planning and organization phase. Then, when it’s time to start cranking out the prose, I only have to write one scene at a time. It is specific, finite, and relatively small. I’m not overwhelmed by the intimidating scale of several hundred blank pages and the pressure of having to come up with a novel’s worth of creativity on the spot.
Most importantly for me, though, is I don’t have the fear that I’ll start down a creative path without knowing it will end well. Because I’ve already determined the plot, sub-plots, character development, protagonist-antagonist conflicts, setting, etc., I can write one scene at a time knowing it will all fit together in the end.
I have been working as a programmer since I was 16. In my career, I have been paid to write code in 25 languages on 8 different major platforms. Being a programmer isn’t just about writing code, it’s about being organized.
Being a writer has a lot of parallels.
When writing a large application, software developers go through a C D E F process. Each letter represents a different phase of the project: Conception, Design, Execution, and Finalization.
Writing a book isn’t just about putting words down in sentences, paragraphs, and chapters. It’s that, for sure, but that’s just the Execution phase. Do you see where I’m going with this?
When I start a new book, I begin with the Conception phase. I keep a notebook or my iPad handy and I jot down ideas as they come to me. These are often single sentences that describe scenes or characters. I have also written down lines of dialogue. Once I have some big ideas and have decided to run with one, I spend some time brainstorming more detailed ideas along that book’s theme.
After I have conceived my book idea and written down the main ideas of what the book will contain, I organize and flesh out those concepts into a plot event list. This is the Design phase.
A plot event list is what many authors call an outline. I don’t call it that, because it’s not in outline format. Mine is a list of single sentences, each describing an individual scene. I then organize those sentences into the chronological order they will appear in the book. (I don’t group scenes into chapters until I’m actually writing the book.)
Once I have the plot event list finalized, I turn to my favorite writing tool, Scrivener. I create a text card for each scene, and copy-past the scene sentence into that card’s notes field. Once Scrivener is all set up, I begin writing Chapter 1, page 1.
I have now entered the Execution phase. This is where I actually write the book. Because of how I have organized my plot event list into separate scenes within Scrivener, I only have to mentally and creatively worry about one scene at a time, rather than worrying about the entire book. This also helps prevent Blank Page Syndrome. It also allows me to write scenes out of order if I need to.
Once the book is written, we move into the Finalization stage. This is where I hand off my manuscript to my editor for a plot level review. She reads what I’ve written and gives me feedback on what happens in the book. This includes identifying plot holes, inconsistencies, and areas that need to be expanded based on their reader’s curiosity. I then make revisions based on that feedback and turn the revised manuscript back over to the editor for another plot review. I also hand the book over to 2-6 beta readers for their feedback.
Once revisions are made, the editor goes over it again, this time for a line edit. This is where the mechanics of my writing is critiqued and corrected: spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. Nothing changes as far as the plot goes.
The last part of the Finalization phase is publication. I submit the book to my various outlets (e-book publishers, like Amazon.com and iTunes, etc.) and then announce its availability to the world through social media and my blogs, including this one.
I apologize to my readers and followers for my lack of communication in the last two months. I bought a house and moved, and that has taken up all of my free time since mid-October.
The weather where I live has also been a factor, disrupting schedules and plans and being downright inconvenient.
Now that things are settling down and getting back into a routine, I will be re-engaging in writing activities. I have a fourth book to write, and two existing books to release on paperback. Stay tuned, and thank you for your patience.
After spending a bit of time on another writing project, I have recently returned my attention to Paragon’s Call. Part of that effort has been evaluating the plot I have mapped out and determining if it will go in the direction I need.
I got that worked out and adjusted the plot line better to my liking, then returned to composition. I’m now up to a little over 63,000 words, with a half dozen chapters remaining. For scale, both book one Ohlen’s Arrow and book two Ohlen’s Bane are about 64,000 words each.
My plot adjustments have shortened the overall length of the novel by removing three chapters that didn’t add much to the book. I learned back in my screenwriting days that if a scene can be removed without altering the pace or plot, it doesn’t belong.
More importantly, my plot adjustments have changed the role of the antagonist in the book. Specifically, I added a new antagonist that will will play a bigger part in subsequent books.
Wait, what? Did I just indicate there will be more after Paragon’s Call?
Ohlen’s Arrow is published. The rough draft of Ohlen’s Bane is completed and is now in the revision-editing phase. That was my original intention, just the two books. In the meantime, I had an idea for a new book that would be completely unrelated to the Ohlen’s series and it has been bursting inside my head, eager to get written.
A friend gave me the idea of modifying my new story idea so that it can begin where Ohlen’s Bane ends, effectively creating a third book in the Ohlen’s series. After brainstorming some ideas, I found a way that I think may work. I am going to spend the next two weeks nailing down the overall plot points.
Once that is done, I will finish my revisions to Ohlen’s Bane and move it forward into editing, then I will create a plot event list for the third book and move ahead with that.
As Merrick Stonehorn stood in the back of the crowd gathered in the courtyard, he watched Hadrick Burgoyne emerge onto the wooden dais erected before the Keep’s main entrance. An entourage of sycophantic advisers and attendants surrounded the fat, grey-haired man whose clothes were needlessly regal beyond the occasion. Despite Burgoyne’s physical size, Merrick considered him to be the smallest man he’d ever met.
The ruler began speaking to the assembled crowd – it was a monthly ritual. His speeches were flowery and puffed up civic decrees that had little substance but were intended to remind the citizenry that he was still in charge.
Merrick sensed someone was watching him. A short, wiry man with brown, expressionless eyes emerged from behind a food vendor’s cart, stood next to the giant innkeeper, and said, “His speech is especially interesting today, don’t you think?”
Both men kept their eyes toward the fat man on the dais as they conversed. The big man shrugged his shoulders and said, “‘Interesting’ isn’t the word I would choose.”
Rinn discretely glanced around to make sure no one was within earshot. “I’d say he’s doing a good job for a dead man.”
“I don’t like the guy, but that doesn’t mean I want to see him dead.”
Merrick gazed nonchalantly toward the shorter man standing next to him. He caught a glimpse of a rare smile from the rogue.
“We need to talk. You know where,” Rinn muttered before fading back and disappearing amongst the vendor carts.
I met with my editor last night to go over our first review of the rough draft of Paragon’s Call. Her analysis, in a nutshell, is it’s the best book I’ve written to-date. My impression of it matched hers, that it is my most refined book so far.
We identified some areas where I can add text to clarify some plot events, but these are minor and the book would still be a good one if I didn’t add them. Some of the other minor comments were admittedly subjective, but I trust my editor’s advice and perspective and will most likely implement her suggestions.
My goal is to make these revisions and get the manuscript back into her hands for editing within the next two weeks. I think it is a reasonable expectation that I’ll have the book completed and ready for publishing by the end of March.
I started a five-day promo on Amazon where Ohlen’s Arrow is a free Kindle download through Friday 7/10/2015. It started at #4,793 amongst free books for Kindle (Fantasy) and by the end of the day reached #2!