Should I Write my Epic… Before I Sell Book 1?

17 Feb

After much dreaming and research, next week I’ll be heading down to Costa Rica for a little over a week for some adventure. Not enough time to do Australia – right now, that’s a 2018 goal, but we’ll see how we do finance-wise, as I’m hopefully also about to become a house owner this year as well, but if all goes well besides learning how to surf I’ll finally be using my PADI certification.  I if we’re friends on FB, I’m sure you’ll see some pictures.

 

Today’s Topic has been on my mind for a while. I’ll start with saying that aspiring writers come from different walks of life, skill levels and expectations.

Writing, while having properties I can analyze syntax and make just about any topic uber-boring, is an art.

I can watch and copy someone else’s work, but I have no idea how to make it flow and, if you and I were to get an impression on any sculpture or painting, we might come to different interpretations as to what we notice. The same goes with writing.

But a question that interests me is, what if I envision a longer project? Perhaps the novel stands on its own, but I’ve envisioned it in parts, and I’m really motivated to keep going. This is tackling book 2 or even an entire trilogy (or more, I know which genre to which I belong!) striking while the creative iron is hot, before book 1 is really refined, much less accepted.

Only to realize maybe by the time I’m finished, the market is oversaturated with say, Zombie Unicorns, and I’ve dedicated a lot of time and effort with that one series no one will touch.

This isn’t about why we write and who we write for. This is about using one’s time wisely, so any fans aren’t bored while you take a three year break working on something that will never see the light of day.

There’s pros and cons to dedicating yourself to a large project, so I’ll use the same analogy as the visual artist above. If I only do oil painting and only do nature scenes, I’ll probably get very good at it – no matter how hopeless I start, if you were to line up the earliest attempts to the latest, you’d see general improvement over time. That being said, if I were to also study figure drawing via conte or attempt sculpture, my scenic oil paintings might take longer to improve, but my general skills from composition, depth and lighting, might not translate necessarily from one medium or subject matter to another, but it can help me rethink a problem.

I’m a bad example because I started writing very young – I did start out writing a series of novels, because it was easy to revisit the world and characters, and continue on with what I had already established.  I had some vague epic plan, but I had no idea what I was doing. Characters got to visit new locations and I got to put the focus on background characters – not so much a day in the limelight so much as “this would be cool from this perspective – huhuh, I know Blink 182 isn’t really epic fantasy music, but I could totally see this song right here”. *Sings to the radio, wonders why not much writing happened today*

The thing that is unfortunate that, even if I were to approach writing with a much better mastery of the English language, was that my first novels were bad. Not creatively – when I find my old stuff, I kind of enjoy how free the stories were. Beyond that – well, no reason to be a self-loathing artist here; use your imagination. I became a reasonably fast typist because I wrote, but it took first year University to knock me down a few pegs that, no, I’m not as clear and concise as I think I am.

But I wrote passionately and I studied everything I could.  And while I had it in my heart that the series needed me to catch up skill-level for the epic story, I wrote other shorts, novellas and eventually, once I graduated I started to write novels as well – but not set around the same characters or subgenre.

It was only just recently I revisited and wrote a sequel for a novel I hadn’t submitted yet.

Why put in all that work and effort for a genre (YA) I find extremely hard to get any attention for?

Because I was having a hard time getting the first novel the way I liked it. I wrote the first knowing full well that it stood on its own but I wanted to write a sequel, but I had lots of ideas. The novel in question is a wacky YA steampunk, and the first novel is really fast-paced. I felt that to get the first novel right, I needed to explore it from another angle.

We see this all the time as “writing exercises” where you interview your character or put them in a situation, and write a page or two of fluff so you get to know them better. Stuff that helps you, as a writer, but isn’t meant to be seen by the reader – necessarily. But was it necessary for me to write an entire book?

This is where I think it’s a good idea that, if you do have an idea for book 2, don’t just send book 1 out and forget about it, because given my experience how long it takes to hear back, if you’re writing a novel a year, I’m usually 2 books ahead before I’m at the “Send me more” phase. Hash some rough chapters out. Make yourself notes. If you have a source to familiarise yourself with the material, do it so you can go back. It doesn’t seem like it’s important when you finish a book, because you are supposed to know details. Immerse yourself in another universe, maybe a leaving yourself notes for a refresher doesn’t hurt.

Flex your authorial muscles in ways beyond reading and writing non-fiction. I learned how to imitate other authors by stealing their voices for shorts. I’m not saying that if you only write hard- science fiction you have to write a middle grade western, but try to make it different, even if it adheres to your brand.

But what about a true epic, that requires absolute planning, and is meant to be one whole, and needs to be split into parts for the sake of a physical copy?

Once again, consider if you think you’re done after draft 1, 8, 20. It’s not a bad idea to take a break from that epic, and work on something else, especially if you have writers block.  Back to the painting analogy – I might be inspired to do something big and epic – and let’s use oils because you can build onto them – but it might be a slow, arduous process on my massive canvas, and occasionally, I’ll do other commissions or sketch when I’ve had enough because I just can’t get the sunset just so. The beauty with writing on a screen is that you can make multiple tiny changes to the manuscript without having to rewrite an entire page, removing entire scenes or moving them around. You can always keep adding to a story (and some of us seem to be in that endless cycle, but letting go is another post).

The best way for me to get my story in its best shape, ironically, is to give it a break and come back to it with a fresh set of eyes. Knowing more about it is helpful – but remember, even some of the most beloved classics have a bit of continuity problem. I’m not going to point and jeer, so stop worrying and write, okay?

Thoughts? I’m mostly curious from the, “I sold book 1… now I really have to hurry and finish book 2!” when they’ve promised a trilogy camp.

Thoughts on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

17 Jan

Despite the name (thanks, dad) I’d say I’m like most people when it comes to Star Wars: I enjoy it. Enjoy the Lego sets. Sort of aware of all the old EU stuff that’s now become obsolete. Never watched the Clone Wars or Rebels cartoons – but aware they exist. Was pleased with The Force Awakens, but isn’t going to say it’s the best thing evaaar. Saddened by the recent loss of Carrie Fisher, though my thoughts and prayers go to her family. We’ll get to thoughts on her later on in this post.

Can’t say I hated the prequels, but Star Wars wasn’t my childhood the way I can see it being some people’s.

I’m not opposed to supplementary movies, but I think while I don’t mind expanding on the universe in new stories, to leave the classics alone. I was very sceptical about Rogue One in general, because I had questions like, “Even if we pretend Princess Leia isn’t involved until the last minute – what about the staff on the Death Star?” I’m not a purist, but, what about Tarkin?

To add to the drama, people on FB mentioned they were conflicted to taking some of their kids because, while it was a Star Wars movie, it felt darker. Darker wasn’t the word I’d use to describe Rogue One, I’d use the term mature. But then I decided to watch A New Hope again. Yeah, I’d say it’s not a darker tone – the original Star Wars isn’t gory, but doesn’t shy away from adult ideas, albeit ones simplified.

Mature stories, on the contrast, explores what’s going on and are generally less idealized. From the writer’s perspective, the path of those who aren’t the chosen ones – and while obviously the hero still needs to eat, usually the focus is on the fate of the world, not the fall out because of mutiny because people are losing heart. I’m not saying you can’t enjoy something that’s aimed at kids – when you’re more discerning, you may question what was going on throughout the galaxy for the Empire’s 20-year reign, but you don’t over think it.

I saw Rogue One with family, and my seven year old nephew said he really liked it, he also asked me questions about what was going on, who was that guy and why didn’t they just X. He doesn’t do that when we’re watching The Hobbit movies or other Star Wars films. I think sometimes people mistake complicated for good – but I find that complications can slow down a story and, while it might be accurate to history, as creatures who really like stories, we want the motivations to be clear, and have a certain expectation as how we want the story to go. Hercules can fall during a trial, but not forever.

Was Rogue One entertaining and well done? Based on one viewing as a casual fan, I think so. No complaints about special effects, costume and setting, as well as casting. I suppose I could go on about the ideology portrayed – but it is my experience that when you have a project that goes across to different writers, that will be a reflection of what they thought of the media as well as how it relates to the world about them, as well as a reflection of social issues that pervade our society. That being said, you could tell it was handled by people who loved the source material.

Certain people, at least online, were complaining about bringing women into powerful roles in the forefront of the conflict, whereas the story is essentially a male fantasy.  I would protest this, because I thought Jyn was passive and more or less along for the ride and, while the mission happened because of her, that Cassian was a more interesting and relatable character. While we’re on the topic of characters, I’d argue that Cassian and K-2SO, among the heroes, had the best personalities (I also liked Orson’s portrayal) but, like the planets we got exposed to, it seemed to be throwing a lot in very quickly. Fine for me – but my nephew won’t catch nuances. I know it’s hard to go back when the original movie is going to be 40 this year – and if this wasn’t part of the Star Wars canon, I wouldn’t say boo. But Rogue One seems like it’s there for the older kids who already know what sort of film to expect.

I’ve said it before – there have always been female fans of the traditional “boy” genre. I don’t worry about representation as much now as I did when I was a kid, but that’s because I write my own, and often times it feels that when you’re introducing a heroine, there’s the need to make her ‘badass’ or whatever – it can feel shoe-horned in. Not saying don’t do it, but I can like something and still think about it critically. Despite Rey and Padme being added to the Canon (as well as Phasma and now Jyn) I still think Leia Organa is the best female character in that series, so I suppose I should move on to the CGI aspect.

Carrie Fisher has recently passed away, whereas the character of Tarkin way portrayed by Peter Cushing, who passed away in the 1990’s. Especially to the family of Fisher, it seems cruel, but people are talking about the politics of what they’re going to do, especially considering Leia Organa is an iconic character and was set to play a major part in the new Star Wars Trilogy, with VII out last year and VIII in post-production, apparently Fisher had all of her scenes filmed.

Honestly, one of the concerns I had with prequels and that is to explain away the appearance of characters who would have aged. Given that there are enough people to look the part with makeup and a bit of CGI, it’s not that we can’t have someone who really looks like the character running about. It’s that their being portrayed – especially an iconic character, like Leia Organa – by someone else. Especially when that actor recently passed away.

A question like this came up in WWC this summer, when someone asked us on a panel about series, “What do you do if you realized you killed a character you needed?” I say you improvise, and there’s no reason the show has to stop because you realize you needed Billy. Obviously, the character of Leia could be portrayed by someone else, or CGI, or she can explained away. You get criticized regardless of what direction you take, because there’s no way you can make everyone happy. Writers bring their own biases into a story, but so do the viewers.

I can’t answer this, but I can’t say that I like the idea of CGI Leia or Tarkin, although Leia’s role was greatly reduced and had less than a minute of screen time in Rogue One. Tarkin fooled my dad, but I say bring in a live actor, and if it’s not like a prequel where they must appear in a future episode, give the character a fitting farewell and respect the actor’s legacy in which they brought to the screen a character that we could relate to.

So Long, 2016

2 Jan

Hope you and yours are having lovely holidays– as for me, I’m working and looking forward to four days off following tonight’s shift. Let’s just say, locally, we got a heck of a lot of snow, with apparently more on its way tonight.

I didn’t post online my goals for 2016, and artistically there weren’t anything specific other than continue with writing and drawing, and I did get quite a bit accomplished. Absolutely zero feedback on the younger YA and Middle Grade stuff I’ve written, but I did sell another novel to Champagne Books. As soon as they get back to me on the Gothic Steampunk novel, I send in the next book in the series. Don’t want to flood the editors, but I think my goal is to get these YA steampunk books out. I just finished the second book, written because I wanted to go deeper into the characters, several of which I felt weren’t as developed in the first book as they could have been.

The nice thing is this year I paid off my student loans. I have saved up and am officially able to go and look for a house. I still have a bit of consumer debt, but I need to take a vacation – even if it’s not going any where, but I am thinking that I have a passport, just have a bit more stuff to do around here, and then I will use up my equivalent of two weeks and go somewhere – I was going to go last year, but the winter was honestly extremely mild. I have to figure out what I want, and I’m supposed to start editing my new novel under contract next month. My best guess is I should go away for about a week, and take another week off to get the editing done.

So did I get as much as I wanted accomplished in 2016? Nope – honestly, it feels like I’ve become a bit boring. I have been working a heck of a lot to get ahead, and honestly, sometimes I wonder for what. It would be nice to take up a martial art or do archery more regular or even get back into my high angle rescue stuff. The Rec Center on the base has opened up a climbing wall, so I’m hoping that I can go and get some certification in repelling (I have totally lost my gloves from when I was in fire college, my ziplining instructor certification is mucho expired). The other goal, after I find a house, is get me a kayak. Which is strange, because this summer I think I kayaked the least since my dad made his purchase about three summers prior. Then again, the OT has dried up since November and I really can’t complain as I’m enjoying the seemingly ‘normal’ hours. Then I accepted a shift tonight. Weee. Ah well – it’s in MacGregor so I’ll probably get a chance to write and edit. I’ll figure out what sort of personal reading challenge I should do, as right now I’m listening to non-fiction audiobooks and then another non-fiction book on loan.

Another NaNoWriMo Fail – but we’re not done with 2016 Yet

7 Dec

 

 

 

winterwheatposter_2016

Remember when I was kvetching about my inability to print anything for the conference? I ran into the local library to print, and it led to conspiring. If you happen to be in the Portage la Prairie area this Saturday, come down to the library for an afternoon of talking about books. Not only will you be able to talk to local authors and learn about the creative process, but you get food!

So excuses aside – when I got the contract for Witchslayer’s Scion, I spent the next bits of free time going over it to make it as good as I possibly could. The problem with the whole “make it as good as you can, then write the next book” is that even though I don’t feel like I’ve gotten much better over time, you do notice the small bits to nitpick over. Plus at over 130k, it took me a bit of time to not only read through it, but reacquaint myself with the rules of the universe. The perk though, is any glaring inconsistency, like a character’s motivation or whatever, was staring me in the face, so I could allude to an issue a little stronger.

But I did do some actual writing for nano – I wrote a short for an anthology I missed the deadline for. I like the story, but it’s not the way I want it to be, so I’ll probably go back to it. I’m almost almost done this YA Steampunk (pretty much just a battle scene – which is usually easy but for whatever reason, this one not so much) and then I got quite a bit done on a new project. Not as much as I’d like to be done, I think the focus needs to be getting this YA book done and dealt with. And, seeing how it’s day 2 of a blizzard (I switched the day because a coworker pleaded with me to go to Hockey on Saturday night – bwahahahaha) seems like an excellent day for tea and finishing. Because it certainly doesn’t make any sense for me to be shoveling snow, right now…

New Contract and NaNoWriMO

7 Nov

I mentioned on facebook that I had a new novel accepted for publication, but I’ll elaborate – it’s actually older than when I wrote Tower of Obsidian. It’s a prequel to a series I started in Junior High (and believe me – if you don’t like my writing now, you should have seen it then). When I first got signed to Champagne, I was encouraged to send in other completed novels. I wasn’t sure if the older stuff suited Burst’s Imprint, so it wasn’t until I was at WWC that I asked Ellen in person if she objected to a longer book (about 132k) let’s just say once upon a time in my fervor, I once managed to write a 300k brick, which I know is actually not that bad if you happen to be good. I like epic bricks, but even I knew it needed work. So that book is sold, and I sent in another novel. I’ll give it a wait before I send in the main course of the series, mostly because I’m slowly editing through something I’ve had edited… lots.

I blame work. I keep having slow days and then I drive all night. Thing is, I pop open my laptop to work at work, and we get assigned on something usually not serious, but time consuming. The good news, though, is that the casuals are quite happy to pick up the extra shifts, so I haven’t had any OT in about two weeks now. It feels great to go in for normal shift hours.

So if you’re friends with me on NANOWRIMO website and are all like, “And you haven’t updated why?” It’s because I’ve been editing. And I know I overthink things and it’s no one’s fault but my own. I think a big part of my problem with writing is that I find it hard to consistently get my work to a quality I like. I talked to my sister about it – the two types of readers tend to either not even notice or get self righteous over small things. I think a big part of it stems from that most media isn’t directed to people like me – books and movies for women and girls tend to be light-hearted and usually focus on relationships, whereas I like quests and adventures and characters I can relate to. So I want to do the media right, all the while knowing nothing is perfect.

So what’s it about?

It’s a sword-and–sorcery novel entitled Witchslayer’s Scion, which follows a young man’s quest for vengeance when his brother is ritually murdered. Cue a more complicating factor (my cliche, among backstory for backstory) that shows his bloodline is tied into the men that targeted his family. I originally wrote the story to flesh out the main series’ anti-hero old guy (who, very early on, started out as a villain), because I was concerned his backstory was too similar to another character’s, but while there are similarities, I was able to flesh out a very different motive for a very different character, and because the focus is different (and we go to a very different time and place) it has a very different feel. So after I send this bad boy in, I have a short to finish, a nanowrimo to start, then I guess I wait until I hear back from the other novel (I do hate flooding publishers) to get the other book sent. Then I suppose I have enough life experience to rethink Terran, my cyberpunk novel from a few years ago.

My niece is finally reading that kid’s book I wrote her. She likes it, and has decided she wants to write ‘chapter books’ when she’s older.

Love that kid.

 

Oh, and it turns out I *did* finish a book by a Canadian Author in October. I’m pretty sure I met Brenda at Canadian Mennonite University’s YA writing week back in 2010. I suspect this, because this is bang on to a segment of a story we talked about then. It’s not my normal read, but give The Art of Rebellion a Shot. So far, I’m the jerk who has given it the lowest rating.

NaNoWriMo, And the Year Thus Far

1 Nov

It’s that time of year again – when everyone is busy shucking out 1700 words a day. As for me, I was going to start a new science fiction novel – and still might, but I have a short story to finish, and, I haven’t announced it on FB yet, but one of my novels just got picked up by Champagne Books, and will be available in June of 2017.

On top of that, if you are writing and want to go to a literary event, I have been planning one for several months with the Portage la Prairie Library. The hard part, it turns out, isn’t coordinating everyone or my lack of time, but getting a laptop that works and me getting comfortable on it. I thought I’d be fine without a DVD-Rom, but apparently, this is still a learning curve. My old laptop has some of the documents I want on it, so I can just get stuff that way, but still!

So if you are wanting to talk books in December (or just check out some local authors!) I’m still confirming the guest list, but come on down December 9 to the Portage la Prairie Library.

Friend me on the official NaNoWriMo site, my user name is Ciage. I probably will get to that science fiction novel, but now my thoughts are turning back to my series. So my best guess is instead of one story, I’ll be working on three very different projects, but I’ve done different projects before, and every little bit of work helps.

In the meantime, taking a break from the OT (Like I said I was going to do in August – ha!) and focusing on my health and fitness. I have been pretty consistent with the stationary bike now that the weather’s getting cold for regular cycling, but the plantar fasciitis is generally getting better, so I’m thinking of stepping it up a notch. I am nervous about spraining my ankle again, but I can’t worry about it too much – the whole ‘deal with it’ but my foot is feeling better from all the AT I’ve been throwing at it, so yay.

As for reading – yeah, I finished two books (one was an audio book) but nothing Canadian last month, unless you could me finishing The Art of Rebellion on the first of the month. I know, I suck – but to be fair, I did read most of Cat’s Eye. Sometimes the amount of work I need to do can be overwhelming, but the way I see it, is one step at a time, and you’ll get where you’re going eventually.

September Canadian Author Round Up / Writing Plans and NANOWRIMO

3 Oct

I know I should have finished Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood – after months of whining about no ereader (broken, now fixed) I have left it behind at my parent’s house. And after all that “I’m not doing any overtime” I basically was involved with work in some way every day off (I should be at work today, but I worked last night).

Anyway – here’s a list of the Canadian I read in September

Scandal and Secrets by Christopher Hoare

I’ll also throw out The Tattooed Witch by Susan MacGregor finished end of September and I just finished The Queen’s Game on the First of October, on account that I don’t think I talked about those books yet, and I’m currently reading two books by Canadian authors now.

As for where I am writing-wise – well, I haven’t gotten that steampunk horror novel sent off yet, so the plan is to do that before Nano. My plan was before October, but not there yet. Checked to see how the other various submissions are going. The other plan is to write two short stories for an anthology and ask Ron which one he likes better and send them out. Get this kid’s book finished before NANO (or at least mostly done – I’m not above finishing it later)and I’m thinking that I would like to try a space opera this time around. This might change a dozen times before that; if I manage to get everything done my next plan is to get back to editing that Cyberpunk novel I wrote five (5!) years ago. I was really editing it, and then I felt like it just wasn’t good enough, so I figured let it percolate and get back to it. And hey, it’s set on Mars, and now that I think we’re officially going to colonize and everything, it’ll at least by timely if and when the book ever finds a home.

Anyhew, gorgeous weather where I am, and now that I have a nice thing of tea besides me, I suppose it’s time to get started on that first short story.