Book #23 is done!

So yesterday I finished writing Rhune.  I’ll have bigger post in my website, but just wanted to officially log this in…book #23.  Yes, I’ve written 23 books, although most of them you’ll never see.  Here’s the breakdown:

  • 11 “practice books” where I was just trying to “learn my craft” and “find my voice”.  Some okay ideas but terrible execution
  • 6 Riyria Revelations: Theft of Swords (The Crown Conspiracy & Avempartha), Rise of Empire (Nyphron Rising & The Emerald Storm, Heir of Novron (Wintertide & Percepliquis)
  • 2 Riyria Chronicles: The Crown Tower (releasing in less than 2 weeks), The Rose and the Thorn (releasing on my birthday – Sep 17)
  • 1 Hollow World – approaching finishing the copy edits on this.
  • 2 books that I’m not sure what to do with:  Need editing at a minimum (Antithesis and A Burden to the Earth)
  • 1 in the New Empire Series

Currently it stands at 122,800 words. Much left to do on this but nothing I’ll be doing anytime soon.  First will require Robin to do the Alpha read, based on her feedback I have a couple major changes that I may or may not need to do.  I pretty much have lined up things nicely or Dherg.  I’ve been burning the candle on all ends: Hollow World, Riyria Chronicles and now this.  So I’ll probably be taking a break and trying to get some things around the house taken care of that have been neglected.

One chapter to go!

For the last two days, I’ve been struggling a bit.  The house is a mess (with Hollow World shipping materials and boxes of stuff for The Crown Tower release).  I’m spending some time each day working on Hollow World edits, but i still want to make progress on Rhune (especially since I don’t feel like I can take a break until I get this wrapped up).

I recognized early on yesterday that what I was writing just wasn’t going to cut it.  I don’t generally suffer from writer’s block…and this wasn’t that as I knew what I wanted to write…but it just wasn’t coming out like it should.

So I spent the late afternoon, getting my “head together.” I went on a really long and difficult bike ride, had dinner out and then rode a good way home as it was still too early to take the Metro (bikes aren’t allowed between 4:00 – 7:00 because of Rush hour).

I returned exhausted, but after a shower I re-read what I had written, and yes it was as bad as I thought it was.  The good news is the rewrite went much better.  I spent today’s morning finishing off the climax of the story and I now just have the final concluding chapter.

So this afternoon I’ve got to write 2 blog posts for Orbit, then it’s back at reviewing the copy edits for Hollow World.  I think both of these projects are going to be wrapping soon and with Crown Tower debuting in a couple of weeks it might be that they all “conclude” pretty much together.

Today’s editing rant about the English language

All I can say is thank the gods, God, or whatever you believe in, for editors. I’ve been going over the copy edits and they’ve saved me from countless embarrassments. It’s Daniel Steel and not Steele. Yes, there is a difference between bawling and balling (that could have been really embarrassing). So some of this is basic fact checking (bad lazy writer), some of this is just not being familiar with the variations in words. But there are some things that I’m convinced are in their brains just because the do this day in and day out.

Let’s take the following as an example.

Pax led the way across the open plaza on which huge burnished metal shapes were imbedded. 

Imbedded is a fine word, meaning “Fix or set securely or deeply.” But in going over the copy edits one astute editor changed it to embedded which has two meanings:

  1. Enclosed firmly in a surrounding mass
  2. Inserted as an integral part of a surrounding whole

Yep, a better choice.  Now I don’t think I would have been embarrassed if I hadn’t discovered there were two such closely related words, and I’m glad at the improvement, but dang.  Did the English language really need both of these?  Which came first, and why the slight differences?  

It’s things like this that make me realize I’ll never master all the little nuances of this language. I know there are some that are supposedly more difficult to read or write…but I have more than enough trouble just dealing with stuff like this.


Editing tip…subjunctive mood

When I was in high school, I really wanted to be a novelist.  The possibility of this happening was darn close to zero because I was terrible at spelling, but more importantly I wasn’t very good at grammar.  So, not surprising, I went into art instead of writing.

Years passed, then decades. Spelling checkers emerged and helped a great deal with spelling, and after editing, or reviewing copy edits of others for a number of books, my grammar improved.

I try to learn something new about grammar regularly, and at this rate I’ll never run out of new things to learn.  I was actually pretty proud of myself as I caught an error that my copy editor was adding by mistake.

Editors adding in a mistake doesn’t make them bad editors. If you look at the sheer volume of changes to a manuscript it’s not surprising that a nit gets through.  This is one of the reasons why I’m using two copy editors for Hollow World, what one misses the other catches.

So here is one of the things I recently learned. I often struggle with the choice between was and were.  When choosing based on quantity, I’ve pretty much got that down.

  • The trees were green.
  • The tree was green.

Simple enough.  But I always seemed to flip-flop on sentences like this:  Should it be:

  • I wish I was a younger man.
  • I wish I were a younger man.

Without knowledge of subjunctive mood I would conclude that the first is correct because I’m referring to a singular person…and I would be wrong.

You see the choice between was and were is not always just based on quantity.  It also can represent a mood and indicate whether something is factual or a wish-fulfillment. If stating a fact: use was. If “wishing” for something use were.

Consider the following:

I wish I were a younger man and that I wasn’t dying.

In this sentence the person is expressing a wish…one of which isn’t true, and the other, unfortunately is.

While I’ve known for years about was/were related to quantity, it was only recently that I learned about it with regards to mood. If you would like to learn more, here is a helpful link.  If you struggle with this, you’re in good company:

Damn the subjunctive,” Mark Twain wrote in his notebook. “It brings all our writers to shame.”

A quick observation about world building and speculative fiction

I’m still buried from many days off at ConnectiCon (though it was great), and I’m feeling the pressure to get Hollow World copy edits done…So I just have a minute to make a quick post.

At ConnectiCon I did a panel on world building, and I, and all the other panelists, said the same thing about how only the tip of your world building pyramid should show.  In talking afterward it occurred to me the irony that  one of the things that defines speculative fiction (in particular fantasy and science fiction) is the fact that it takes place in an invented world so world building is a cannon of the genre.  But…the reality is that books that spend too much emphasis exposing their world building seem inaccessible and heavy.

Bottom line…it really doesn’t matter what genre you write in.  The story is primarily driven by plot, character, and conflict.  Keep focused on this, and use your world building to set a stage not “take center stage.”

That’s it…I’m back to the grindstone.

Making connections

I hit 111,000 words today on Rhune and yet I’m still about four chapters away from the end.  Which is where I was 8,000 words ago.  Part of the issue is as I come to the end of this book I’m pulling together all the various connections to wrap it up but also providing some threads for the second book.

Robin and I were talking at lunch how my books have a lot of  connections…little things that don’t seem important later have a bigger meaning.  These are the things that I really enjoy doing.  Robin thinks it is part of my subconscious mind that is constantly laying the ground work for me to make use of once my conscious mind sees that they are there…but I think it has more to do with a desire on my part to use something that is already there as opposed to adding on.

In today’s case I came across a nice little character trait that was once just a quirk and now will weave into a plot device.  Fun times. Also at lunch Robin was wondering if Rhune would change as I wrote Dherg.  My answer was absolutely.  I don’t think she liked that answer as I’m sure she was testing the waters to see if she could roll them out separately.  I don’t think she’ll be getting her wish as it’s the ability to make these connections and weave threads that gets me so excited, and I’m not about to give that up.

What comes first…

I’m at ConnectiCon this weekend and I’m reminded me of one of the first panels I was ever on.  It was at Balticon and the subject was, “What comes first setting or character.”  I sat amazed as several of the panelists made their case for one or the other, thinking that I must be an idiot because to me the entire question seemed ludicrous. The reason is that as I considered my various projects the answer was, yes, no, neither, both. What bout plot?  What about concept? It seems there is no rhyme or reason that makes me want to write a particular plot.

In Hollow World, the setting is integral to the story…but is it what came first?  No…it was a concept.  That “what if question” that seems to be the basis of most of my ideas.  I currently have a great set of characters code name Nick and Nora. I’m constantly making notes about them as characters, but I have no story to attach them to yet.

For some authors I’m sure they have a place that always starts.  Maybe it is the character, or the the world they want to place them in…and that’s fine…good even. But why have a panel on something that is such an individual choice?  It’s not like you can take what the panel says and apply it to your own writing.

I think part of the trick of writing is finding what works for YOU.  And sometimes that means stop considering how others create their books and experiment with what “makes it happen” for yourself.


The best book that never will be…

As if I didn’t have enough to do…I’m signing stuff for the Hollow World Kickstarter, going over editor changes for the Hollow World Kickstarter, writing blog posts for the Riyria Chronicles release, and trying to get to the end of Rhune (I’m pretty sure I’m at about 80% right now).  And in the midst of all of that a book came to me like a bolt of divine inspiration.

I guess I can thank Robin for it…we had spent a good portion of the day on a long bike ride and that is when I toss around a lot of my ideas.  But the long ride made my wife really tired so her snoring was in fine form.  So much so that it woke me up.  Usually I keep a pad by the side of the bed to make notes in and I sometimes wake and jot down a few.  But this…this was a full novel and I had to get it outlined.  So I actually got up, went to the computer, and essentially wrote the entire book.  It wasn’t “actually written” of course but the outline was extensive and complete. It was/is incredible.  Great commentary on the human condition, plot twists, character growth, a love story. I love it when all the pieces fit into place and the entire scope of the book lies before me.

In the “real morning” (because 3:00 am isn’t morning in any real sense) I spent some more time fully fleshing out the manuscript.  Then reality set in.  I couldn’t write this book. It required detailed knowledge in some aspects (certain religions and parts of the world) that I just didn’t posses.  Still the plot…the plot…was great.  I didn’t want to let it go.  So I wrote to a writer friend of mine who travels extensively and has lived in the parts of the world where the book would be set. I explained to him the plot, and my trepidation about not being able to write it without extensive research.  He confirmed what I had suspected, the idea was amazing…and no I couldn’t write it and probably never would be able to.

Still, I’m glad for the experience.  I liked the story I played out for myself and really enjoyed “reading it” even though it would never make it to paper.  I’m always amazed at how the human mind can make connections and put things together in creative ways.  I don’t regret the time I spent on it in the least. And besides, it’s not like I’m looking for more to write.