Disruption and Recovery

This weekend was a disruptive one and as such I had my first day with zero word count on Rhune.  So what happened:

  • My publisher reported that they loved my book “Hollow World” but given the state of the market they just don’t think it will sell well so they decided not to pick-up the option
  • I showed my wife the first two chapters of Rhune and got her feedback – there were many criticisms
  • In order to keep the release date of The Rose and Thorn on schedule my time to review the copy edits on that book went from 14 days to 9 – so I spent most of Saturday doing that.

Part of being a writer is to get back up on the horse when you are bucked off.  Robin has declared that “Hollow World” will be a huge success…she feels the same way about Riyria as she does that book and so it WILL be willed into existence. She has already hired a great cover artist, and is lining up content editors, copy editors, and proof readers to self-publish it.  The caliber of people she wants to hire are expensive – but she feels the book deserves nothing less.  So we’ll be doing a kickstarter on that soon. If you want to follow how that project is going…there is another site like this but whereas this site is focusing on the “writing” of the series.  That one is going to focus on the production and the marketing of  that project.  If you want to support that effort you can sign up to be notified when the kickstarter…well..kicks off.


With that out-of-the-way, let’s return to the focus of this blog which is writing Rhune.  So Robin was given the first two chapters and while I won’t say she hated it she had a number of  “grave concerns” about what she found.  While this should have depressed me, especially having come in on the heels of a rejection that means I’m going to be losing a good amount of income that I had hoped to carry me over while writing this, it ended up re-invigorating me.

Some of her concerns were:

  1. Showing too much of the iceberg. Having come off 2-weeks of extensive world-building I was anxious and letting a fair amount of that bleed into the story. It wasn’t done in the way of  long descriptive paragraphs or exposition, so I had been very proud of  how it was being worked in subtly.  But it was still too much too soon.  In her words it was feeling more like a “standard fantasy novel” rather than a “Michael Sullivan fantasy novel” I was adding spending too much time on the “setting”  and it felt heavy. 
  2. Characters not engaging. Having only had a scene each there really wasn’t enough “there…there.”   Part of it comes from still getting to know these characters, and wanting to make them distinctive from some of my tried and true favorites, but as she so deftly pointed out, she couldn’t tell me much about any of them after first meeting.  She then went on to provide examples how this wasn’t the case with: Revelations, Chronicles, or Hollow World.  So it was time to step up my game.
  3. Too much dire – not enough fun. The first two chapters I wanted to be exciting, and so there was danger and death in both of them.  While that does start off the book with a bang, it also makes it a bit of a downer.  Part of what makes my books “mine” is the humor and levity and there wasn’t much in the way of that.

Late Sunday afternoon Robin came to my office, depressed that she had been so critical of the book…and probably a little afraid she’d have to start looking for a job.  As it turns out what she thought my reaction would be was exactly the opposite of what it was.  It was good getting this feedback early on, and some of the issues that I were concerned about turned out to not be an issue, whereas some of the things that were bugging me were solidified and armed with a new direction I “dug in.”  Bottom line, I had been starting to lose steam, and now I’m back on track and excited again.  So all in all it was a good thing.

Usually I don’t let Robin read any of the book until it’s all done” but bringing her in early was a great decision.  It probably saved me a ton of rework.  So I spent all of Sunday adding yet another section (This time to Chapter 1) and going over the first three chapters again.  I’m not usually an “edit as I write” guy – but in this case is has been worth it, so even this old dog can be taught new tricks.

4 thoughts on “Disruption and Recovery

  1. Interesting. You seemed to be looking forward to Orbit not taking Hollow World. Certainly I could be wrong but it was the impression I got. I’ll be following ‘another’ page!

    • It’s a double edge sword. On one hand having them pick it up means a) an advance and b) less for me to do as they’ll take care of all the production aspects. On the other hand, I have some very definite opinions on the cover which I wouldn’t have any input on if Orbit did it – plus I do miss the “self-publishing” lifestyle of seeing the numbers, and being able to have some influence on price etc.

  2. Very excited about Hollow World and more excited to see how well the self-publishing route goes for you since the success of The Riyria Revelations. I know you had success before, but I imagine it will be even greater this time around.

    I also look forward to seeing how your ‘editing as you write’ adventure goes. Every story is different I suppose and may require different methods.

    • Thanks. I had really huge success with Riyria when self-published, I’m not setting my sights that high as that for Hollow World considering it is a different genre and will likely have a different audience.

      As for the “editing as I go” I’m doing that with the “start” of this novel – because I’m still working my way through some issues. But I suspect that as I start Chapter 4 I’ll be back to my old style and just “running with it” from here to the end.

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