Finally ready to move on

Overall word count the last few days has ground to a tremendous halt the reason are;

  • A good part of yesterday was spent meeting up with the screen writer for Theft of Swords. No, don’t get excited we don’t have a movie deal on the horizon but as I’ve not gotten much movement trying to sell it with the books, I’m going to switch tracks and try it from a script. Michael Klein is going to be doing the writing and I highly respect his approach and writing ability.  It was a long “working meeting” and very productive.
  • Marc Simonetti has been working on the cover for Hollow World and as I’m paying him a great deal for this I need to make sure that it works well with my needs, and as such I’ve been doing multiple cover mock ups using his illustration in various ways and communicating feedback, and all manner of Hollow World distractions.
  • A reader informed me that he thought I was eligible for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and so I had to do some digging into that.  Turns out he was right, but I had to verify it with the officials who administer that award, then write a blog post as I’m already late to the table.
  • The final copy edits for The Rose and the Thorn are due on Friday.  Usually I would have had 14 days to do so but that was trimmed back to 9 so while I’m usually not under deadlines – I am now.  Luckily it’s mostly just approving what they have, but there are also some minor adjustments that I need to make based on some of the beta feedback so that is taking me some time to do.
  • And last but not least I’ve been going over the first three chapters and adjusting…and finding the voice.  I FINALLY got it where it needs to be so tomorrow I start in with Chapter 4 and I’m pretty sure I’ll be back to my 2,000 words a day pace.  My current tally doesn’t seem to demonstrate that is my standard pace but it is.

Today is Wednesday – and I have a particular “ritual” on those days.  I’ll post more about that, possibly tomorrow but for now I’m off to the pub.

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.

Balance and the First Three Chapters

It’s interesting starting a new series. I don’t feel fully comfortable yet with my new characters and I’m in that “getting to know them” stage where their own unique voice isn’t as solidified as they will eventually become. It just comes down to spending more time with them, and it’ll be easy enough to make the necessary adjustments during editing once I discover some of the things I don’t know now. But it does make writing much slower than say doing a Royce ad Hadrian project.

Also there’s a bit of a  “feeling my way in the dark” that I’m fighting and part of that is because I want to get the right balance between action and moments of introspection. I’m about to start chapter four, and all in all I think it’s going well. I’ve made some adjustments from from the original outline, and I really like the way these changes are helping out with providing good “balance.”

Originally, the first chapters were designed to “introduce” each of the four characters, one chapter each.  But doing so felt like the reader was being exposed to a lot of characters without getting time to connect with any of them.  So I’ve now added an “unscheduled” chapter that goes back and spends time with the first character and I like the way that breaks the introductions up.

Doing this also solved another problem I was having.  Chapter one has a very fast-paced opening but there is also some information I have to get out before we meet one of the other characters.  I had originally added this as a separate section in chapter one but that really wasn’t working.  It took all the energy out of the first section and the two really clashed stylistically. Moving that section and making it its own chapter solved so many problems.

For those that are here to find advice for writing, I guess the take away is don’t be afraid to move stuff around and don’t get overly concerned when something isn’t fitting in ‘just right” – just keep writing, and let your subconscious mind work on it. One day you’ll be in the shower, or taking a walk and the brilliant idea of how to ‘fix” it will come to you.  Well time to get “back at it.”


Numerous Numbers

A quick run down on what I have so far:

  • 2 – # of years I did conceptualization before starting the design process
  • 13 – # of days I’ve been laying out the design the series
  • 4 – # of main characters for the series
  • 3 – # of books in the series
  • 500 – # of names of places, people, races, etc I’ve come up to draw from as I create
  • 3 – # of maps I’ve created
  • 50 – # of images I’ve found that inspire me either as a place or a character
  • 20 – # of songs I’ve been listening to while doing the design
  • 25 – # of character studies I have done
  • 14 – # of groups of people – clans, tribes, and races
  • 15 – # of chapters currently planned for book #1
  • 4 – # of chapters in book #1 that I’ve done detailed outlines for
  • 2 – # of major plot lines in book #1

Some notes about the graphics

I thought I should mention a bit about the graphic that graces this website.  Part of my creation process is immersing in various stimuli during the process. As such I’m listening to a lot of music (which may be a post of its own some time. But also finding images that help inspire me.  For instance I came across an actor that really helps solidify one of the main characters for me…also for another time.

But because of the epic nature of this series, I wanted some very dramatic landscapes and so I started looking through matte paintings.  I came across this picture (Spring Sunset by Andres Roche) and knew it was perfect. Exactly how I imagine one of the places I’d recently fleshed out.  A bit of research and I found his email and reached out to him as to pricing for its use.

It wasn’t cheap, but worth every penny (in my opinion), and when the time comes to let more people know about this site (currently it’s mainly just members of the Dark Room who I’ve told) I’m sure it will generate some interest in the books.

The “white circle” represents a brooch, which have a major significance in the series. I like the “Celtic feel” of it, not surprising given my roots.

In any case, if you like the painting, and how could you not, please consider dropping andres a line. I can tell you nothing gets an artistic more excited than hearing that others have seen your work and like what you saw.

More late nights, early mornings, and lots of coffee

So I’m having a blast – ideas are coming fast and furious, connections are being made, characters are coming to life, and most importantly I’m find a lot of nice interconnecting pieces of puzzles. I’ve not had this much fun in a VERY long time –  well more than a decade in fact.

The only downside is much of this won’t ever be seen by people…it all background stuff under the waterline and only a very small percentage of this iceberg will be shown – but it still is a great deal of fun for myself who gets to see “it all.”

Right now I feel like a funnel that water is being poured into.  My job is to make sure the amount going out keeps pace with that coming in so that nothing flows over the sides and is therefore lost.  Off I go!

And so it begins…

So, I’ve been drinking from the fire hose for about the last week and half.  My usual work day is 9:00 – lunchtime which is usually 12:00 (or 1:00) or so. In the afternoons I generally will work on blog posts, or read/respond to emails, or go out to forums to see what is going on in the world of publishing and writing.

But for the last week and a half I’ve been working from 7:00 am – 1:00 am (or sometimes 2:00 am) with only very short breaks for lunch and once again at dinner.  In fact, there have been times when I actually can’t see the monitor because my eyes are so burned out.  But it’s all good.

I’m deep in the throngs of creating my “next bit series” and it is exciting to be back to building worlds, creating maps, languages, clans and factions, and developing characters.  I currently have a rough sketch on 12,000 years of history, developed many words ad how they derive from various cultures, and have plotted out all three books.  A nice piece of work for a little over a week.

What I’m hoping is to record my progress through this series and post here. Hopefully it will help others with their writing and those who enjoy my stories will get a bit of a behind the scenes peek at how this all goes.

I’ll try to post at least a quick update every day.  I hope you enjoy the journey with me.