Back to the Keyboard

No more excuses!

As the holidays come to a close, it’s time to get back to writing. I’ll wait until the middle of next week to start querying again for Book the First, but it’s time to get started on Book the Second (no relation.)

This one is a more classic swords-and-sorcery fantasy novel. It’s actually my third try (lifetime) at this particular genre, although none of the other two got even close to completion. They did show me some of the traps of the format, however, which is why writing is never a waste of time.

So… as I head out for the evening, I’m 133 words into my next novel. Hey, I didn’t say I’d done a lot, only that I’d gotten started.

Happy New Year, everyone!


End of Year Chores

As the year comes to a close, I’ve had to put my writing career on hold for a few weeks. Like many people, I have a lot on my plate at the moment, and the little productive time I’ve had to invest in front of a computer has been unfortunately eaten up by the unyelding deadlines I had to meet.

The good news is that my holiday schedule is somewhat relaxed this year (by which I mean I’m working full-time, but don’t have multiple Christmas dinners and New Year parties to attend), and that I get some time off in early January. So I should be able to get started on Book the Second then. My summary bible is good enough, my synopsis is finished (although only in the notebook I work with on the bus – I haven’t typed it yet), and most importantly I’m chomping at the bit, counting down the days until I can afford to get back to writing.

But first there’s some partying to be done. So Happy Holidays, people!

Query Report: 1 of Hopefully Not Too Many

In commemoration of the receipt of my first official “Not Interested” answer, I figure I can throw some numbers out here, just to illustrate where I currently am in my search for an agent.

  1. Potential Agents Identified: 12 so far. I’m a firm believer that targetting agents who state their interest in the kind of book I wrote (contemporary fantasy, if anyone’s interested) is a lot more likely to lead to a successful query. Plus, it’s basic courtesy not to spam people.
  2. Query Letters Sent: 6. As a corollary to point 1 above, I think each agent deserves something better than a Dear Agent letter. Besides, the submission guidelines change from agency to agency, which means I have to rework each letter anyway. Still, I really need to push those remaining six letters out ASAP.
  3. Rejection Letters Received: 1. That’s not cause for concern yet. At this point, I’m trying really hard not to second-guess myself (and my approach) yet. Some rejections are perfectly normal (and I much prefer getting a formal response than being ignored – see below.)
  4. Ignored Queries: Rapidly approaching 1. The second agent I queried has a “If you don’t hear from me in two weeks, I’m not interested” policy. While I prefer to be told flat out if a particular line is dead, at least this gives me an idea of when to stop hoping. In this case, we’re right on the two-week mark… but I’ll give it a few days more, as the query was sent during Thanksgiving.

So this is where I stand. Obviously, not where I want to be, but this isn’t cause for anxiety yet. I’ll probably write up an update in a month or so.

Worldbuilding on the Cheap

As I mentionned earlier, I want to work on yet another synopsis/outline before starting on my next novel. But while both my novel and my other outlines take place in worlds close enough to the real one, that last outline is for a straight fantasy novel.

That means that before I can even get started on the outline, I need to do some worldbuilding. An idea won’t go far without context, after all.

That said, while I generally enjoy reading those complex prologues and essays on magic system… it’s probably overkill to write one just for an outline. Besides, I’m a big believer in the idea that reference materials should be easy to parse. So I kept to the essentials and produced enough content in an evening to allow me to get started on that outline.

Specifically, my document looks like this:

  1. Basic Tone: here, I described, in a couple of paragraphs, how I want the book to feel. Is it grim and gritty? Is there a central philosophical issue I want to tackle? Would the movie/series inspired by the book be dark and depressing, would it be a comedy, would it be an action fest? What would the sets look like? Ultimately, it’s my elevator pitch for the book as well as my mission statement.
  2. Cosmology: it’s a fantasy book/series. Obviously, I need some sort of weird pantheon of divinities and beings of power. For some series, this would be very important (David Eddings’s Belgariad springs to mind: the conflict between the Gods drives the plot forward.) In my case, however, it’s not the case. My deities are important in the vague metaplot I have in mind, but they’re not going to be the main drivers of the story, at least at first. Consequently, I can get away with a really generic description.
  3. Magic System: that, however, is really relevant to the story I want to write. I don’t need to go into the actual mechanics at this point (beyond the very general) but I do need to know what’s possible and what isn’t. Moreover, the magic system defines what my characters will be able to do: am I working with Aes Sedai throwing fireballs, or with Magisters who know lots about herbs?
  4. History/Backstory: I also need to know the basic political/social makeup of the world, and that means figuring out how things got that way. At this stage, I make a conscious decision not to use dates or timelines, but vague references instead. I don’t want to overcommit to an idea at this point, and besides I don’t need that level of detail yet.
  5. Geography: a.k.a. the World Map. I love world maps in fantasy novel. I like them gorgeous, detailed, and filled with hints and promises of things to come. But I have no artistic talent, and so I settle for a very basic drawing in Paint. Right now I only need to know where the countries are located.

And that’s it. Two pages of text and ten minutes of Paint-ing. Now I have more than enough to get started on an outline for a novel. I’ll probably work on a series outline too, but I suspect I’ll need to do more worldbuilding then. I’ll let you know when I get there.