Good News!

No, I haven’t found an agent.

But lately I’ve started editing the first few chapters of Book the Second (mostly because writing didn’t fit my schedule at all and I wanted to keep my streak of good days going.)

So for a brief window I’ve been editing my first draft of Book the Second, and the later, already edited once or twice parts of Book the First.

And Book the Second is so much better. Seriously, there’s a massive jump in quality between the two novels.

I’m pretty sure it’s not new project enthusiasm. It’s straight improvement. Which means that Book the First was probably worth writing even if it never gets published, just because of how much better it made me write.

Hopefully, I’m better enough to find an agent for Book the second. We’ll see!


Goals for the Week

Well, returning to work has been tough on my energy level and general motivation. As in, I didn’t get anything done this week.

In part this is due to general disorganization (and a stupidly large amount of stuff on my non-writing to-do list that I just don’t feel like handling… leading to copious amount of time wasted on the Internet.)

There’s one cure for that: an OFFICIAL TO-DO LIST!

So, by next Monday, I must:

1-Write 500 words on Book the Second. That’s a ridiculously low bar. But it’s a reasonable target given the rest.

2-Finish the last details I wanted to do on the Book the Second tech bible. That’s just copying manuscript notes into the Word document, so it’s a “whenever I have time” task.

3-Another Bonus Creativity post. I already know what it will be about, so it should be a couple of hours top.

4-Review my agent list – just basic maintenance work, again a matter of minutes.

5-Formalize my notes on e-publishing, and plan my blog post(s) on the matter.

Five goals. The passing grade is 3/5, but completing task 1 is mandatory. Let’s see how well I’ll do.

A Dad and a Writer: Month 7 or so

A major change this month: we’ve moved my son’s crib back into his own room, which allowed us to also reorganize a lot of baby stuff and furniture. The net result is that we suddenly have a much, much less messy home – which shouldn’t matter, but it helps me focus. Cluttered house, cluttered mind indeed.

It also helps that the baby has settled into something ressembling a routine. I can generally expect three hours or so of uninterrupted time when he goes to bed, which translates to about an hour an a half of creative work (now that I’ve officially sent off my last queries for Book the First.)

Which means that my latest attempt at writing a second book is actually going well. I’ve managed to plan a series, to figure out the plot of the first book of said series, and to put a little over a thousand words on paper in a week and a half. How sustainable that rythm is remains to be seen, but it’s encouraging.

Wordcount: 503

Writing that second book has been difficult. The sequel to Book the First is something I can work on fairly easily, but it’s perhaps not the best use of my time since I have yet to find an agent willing to represent it. But working on something else presents its own challenges. I’ve started a couple of books, but both have stalled in part because of baby stuff and in part because I’m not that excited about them.

That said, I may have cleared that second hurdle. My latest idea works for me both at the big-picture, metaplot-and-theme level and at the character/action/voice level. In other words, it’s both fun to write and to plan.

So that’s where I am right now. A few hundreds words in yet another attempt – but at least it’s an attempt that will lead me somewhere I think I will like.

Knowing when to Quit

I’m not quitting writing. I’m not quitting querying either.

But it’s become painfully obvious to me that I’m not passionate about Book the Second. There’s nothing terrible about what I’ve written so far, and I still think the setting I have in mind has potential, but the characters feel a bit flat and I can’t shake the nagging feeling that the plot will turn out to be underwhelming.

So that’s going on the backburner for a while (probably forever, if I’m being honest.) Besides, I have another idea which I feel much better about, and which will also be an easier sell, I think.

So that will be Book the Second going forward. I’ve written a thousand words or so already, just to cleanse my palate, and now I’m going to go into full plotting-and-outlining mode. The idea is to start writing in earnest this weeked, with the goal of having a first draft done by the end of summer.

So – current word count for Book the Second: Approximately 800.

Change of Tack

As part of my agent search, I constantly try to find ways to make myself more appealing as a business partner. Part of that is making sure that I offer an interesting value proposition to publishers as well, which includes being able to deliver books on time (and ideally fairly quickly.)

With that in mind, I decided that having an outline for the sequel to Book the First is probably not enough. So I’ve began writing that book (at the same time as the fantasy novel I’ve described a few posts ago.) Running two projects side-by-side is ambitious, but it’s also pretty motivating since whenever I get tired of working on one, I usually feel like returning to the other.

Once I get an agent, I’ll probably decide which book to focus on exclusively, but until then, I think this will be a better use of my time and energy.

(Of course, I also know I need a better platform than what I have now. It’s a work in progress, too. More on that in a future post.)

Writing Another Book: Look-and-Feel

So, this is a fantasy novel. A quick glance at the Wikipedia definition will reveal that that’s not much of a description. Let’s try to define our project better (without falling into spoilers territory, of course.)

Of the listed subgenres, I think the story I want to tell is closest to heroic fantasy or sword-and-sorcery. It’s about people and their relationship with their world, not so much about world-shattering prophecies. At least, not at the start.

That said, to me, sword-and-sorcery reminds me of the works of Fritz Leiber and Robert E. Howard. And… that’s not what I’m doing. As wild and exotic as Aquilonia and Lankhmar are, I want my setting to be a bit more civilized.

For some value of “civilized”, at least. Think dastardly plots to discredit political opponents, secret alliances between baronies, the wheeling and dealing of merchant princes as they send explorers across the world to search for new luxuries and new markets.

Then add semi-common magic, fantastic beasts, and legends. And a fledgling scientifico-magical revolution, with scholars trying to find the rules governing the hedge-magic of the village midwife and the mysterious ways of the various faiths.

… makes me want to get back to writing, actually.

Writing Another Book: Authorial Intent

Since I have to do something besides waiting for answers to my queries, I might as well write a bit about Book the Second.

I’ve already stated that it’s not the sequel to Book the First, but I should probably state that I’m trying to write something significantly different. I’m switching genres (somewhat) by going for a classic secondary-world fantasy novel instead of First’s contemporary setting, but I also want to switch tone and voice. The point is to stretch my wings a bit and to exercise my skills more.

And that means making a few design decisions:

  1. This Isn’t About Me: I’m writing this book in the third person. I’m not quite sure which variation I’ll use yet, but I’m guessing I’ll err on the omniscient side;
  2. No, It’s Really Not About Me, I Mean It: A lot of the superficial traits of Book the First’s characters were either mine, or inspired by people I knew. I don’t get to use that trick this time. These guys are going to stand on their own.
  3. Let’s Have a Party (Maybe): I’m not quite sure on how far I’ll go with this yet, but I intend to have multiple viewpoint characters. I’m almost certain I won’t go as far as G. R. R. Martin, but writing something more like The Wheel of Time appeals to me. Well, the stylings, at least. I like my ideas and worldbuilding for this novel/potential series, but I don’t think it’ll be my cast-of-thousands, takes-a-whole-shelf fantasy series.

Obviously, I reserve the right to change those rules at any time, but I don’t intend to.

Next time, I’ll talk about the general look-and-feel of the fantasy world I’m envisionning.

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!

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.