Editing Project Finished.

My initial foray into the world of professional editing is complete. The last I *heard* the author was happy. But that was before I sent the final chapters on last night. *ducks under desk* You never can tell when you’re swinging that red pen around.

Now I need to get back to editing my OWN work. I’m going to make a final pass at The Iron Conqueror before I sit down and format it for publication. Then I should start having some official looking announcements and maybe even an Amazon page. *gasp* We shall see. I have one other work that will be ready when it gets a reverse cover image and blurb. I made the final run at that a while back. But I’ve wanted the Steampunk to me the lead all along, because I think it’s more market-friendly than my Historical Fantasy.

At any rate, that’s a project I get to strike off my to-do list. I haven’t had as much success with that lately as I’d hoped. Of course, when my current project is a 5 book epic fantasy, it takes a bit longer to get through than some of the other material. 😉 I need to do some book reviews when I have more time as well. I’ve read a few since my last review post. Some one item onto the list to replace the one that came off.

Exit Rewrite Mode

Two books, 215,000 words, and pretty much able to stamp “Final Draft” on Aurori’s Blood. I’m pleased with the first two books of that series now. And I have an idea how to focus the fourth book so that it’s still the series I wanted to write, instead of the crazy thing it veered into with the fifth book. Ultimately it will still get to that crazy stage. But not until I’ve exhausted the history that’s the reason I wanted to write the series in the first place. 😛

So now I’m even more in a ‘dead’ time between here and NaNoWriMo. Or at least I would be, except for my vacation in September. So I think I can be at about 50,000 words by November, and then double that in the Month of Frenzy. Maybe even finish book 4, Chosen’s Return. Besides, can I really complain about going to Hawaii? Nah. Used to live there, once upon a time, for three years. That was before donning the tophat and goggles. My writing back then was largely academic in nature. Loved semi-colons. One of the things I had to learn when switching to fiction was to crush them ruthlessly.

I’ve been meaning to add pages on the blog for all the other stuff I’ve dabbled in. That is: The Aurori, my Hellenistic Fantasy, an Urban Fantasy, and a Space Opera. Though the latter may or may not go under Tarien Cole, as such. I haven’t decided yet. Given the amount of blog time I’ve talked about both lately, they need them. 😛

Something I’ve Discovered

Devoted Editing to two straight books in full rewrite mode saps the enthusiasm. I’m almost to the end of the second now. So there’s no reason to set it aside. But I don’t think I’ll do this again. Write one, rewrite one works better for me. Especially since I usually am editing a project while I write anyway. Though nothing as full-bore as I’ve done the last couple months.

I started compiling notes for Book 4 of the Hellenistic Fantasy. After the full-scale war of the last book, this one will be a bit more maneuver and counter, though with a dark adventure for a second plotline. Yalissa’s not-so-pleasant discoveries continue to accumulate. But at least she gets to ask questions in person this time around. Not sure she’s going to like the answers, though.

I made pilgrimage up to Sporting Park in Kansas City to watch Sporting KC throttle Toronto FC 4-1. It’s always fun to watch a game there. In fact, I’d call it the best venue for any sport in the country. And the team is the defending champs, so no reason to complain there, either.

But my real countdown is to vacation in Hawaii. Three weeks tomorrow. I lived there for three years back before Tarien Cole was a name to use. I’ve missed it often, but hadn’t had a chance to go back yet. It’ll be sad to miss the rainy, stormy, part of the year for sun and the beach. Oh darn. I may even get some writing done on it. If my wife will let me. 😉

In Full Editing Mode

So after finishing book 3 of the Sword, Sandals, and Sorcery series, I decided I needed a little break before going into the next. Still not sure how long that break will be. It’s too long to stop until November and NaNo. But it did take me three months to the day to finish the 120,000 words of Chosen in Chains.

I can usually edit one work while I write another. But there was one book I couldn’t, because sometime in the past, it got horribly reformatted. As in almost every paragraph break was annihilated. Indents were too far, random returns, just ugly.

It was also Aurori’s Blood. My first novel, and the one that probably has gotten the best feedback of anything I’ve shown. So I decided to take the time to comb through it in dedicated fashion, fix it, put it in Scrivener, and then rework the plot of the rest of the series.

For those of you who know nothing about it, here’s my attempt at a logline: A Romany Sorceress, not wanting to become a vampire, flees into the arms of a minor courtier of Emperor Rudolf II in Prague who is preparing to kick off the Long War against the Ottoman Empire. She thus becomes embroiled in a plot of forces political and arcane, wherein a necromancer steals a tome from His Majesty that will allow him to control creatures such as her would-be masters.

Much Chaos Ensues. Where did this come from? Well, I’ve read two authors in my life about whom I’ve said, “There’s no way in the world I could do this.” One was Steven Erikson and his mammoth, sprawling dark epic, The Malazan Book of the Fallen. To me easily the superior sustained epic fantasy of this era. Yes over Wheel of Time (which had 6 books of total cash-cow dross), and A Song of Ice and Fire (which has now spent 2 book spinning its wheels and sees its author dissing its fans for daring to think that once every 6 years is a tad slow for production, ESPECIALLY in a series that is making no narrative progress). When I read Malazan, I was amazed by Erikson’s worldbuilding, characters, gallows humor, and sustained ruthless forward energy. I looked at that, love it, but was pretty sure I could never do anything ‘like’ that. And didn’t really convince myself I wanted to. (I’m now doing a fairly dark epic fantasy of my own, but still, I’d be shocked if anyone compared this to MBotF.)

Then there was Jim Butcher and his Dresden Files. When I saw this recommended on the old Malazan Forum time and again I hesitated. Urban Fantasy didn’t appeal to me. To me, if it’s present day, give me sci-fi. Of course, the fact that too much sci-fi has become political tripe instead of stories about exploration, new cultures, and old challenges encountered in new ways has made me very wary on it. But eventually I gave Dresden a try…oh my. Nope, couldn’t do that either. Fast, funny, brilliant action scenes, and superb genre-savvy characters. For my money, the Best Fiction on the Market.

But, there was a marked difference: Where I read Erikson, loved him, but was intimidated from trying to write anything because I could never measure. With Butcher, it was infectious FUN to think, “I couldn’t do this. But what could I do?”

So I took my love of history, dropped it in one of the most eccentric courts of all time (Rudolf II, Emperor of the Romans in Renaissance Prague), remembered Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, and all the myths he toyed at with that, and then went through Slavic and German Folklore for a few dozen more, and did my best to turn it all up to 11 and see where it went.

And that’s the source of the Aurori Saga. An All-the-Myths-Are-True (sorta) 16th century “Renaissance Urban Fantasy,” if you will. And I’ve had fun refurbishing the first, and playing with the plotline of the subsequent books to tighten the narrative a tad. It might just keep my occupied until I can prep for NaNo with Book 4. We’ll see. 😉

Chugging UpGrade

I’ve spent all week on one chapter of the Sword & Sandal. It’s admittedly a long chapter. But not that long (about 6000 words so far, and climbing). To be fair to myself, I’ve spent a lot of work editing. On that front, I should point everyone to this little side project: http://fav.me/d5ylwfa

The Crux is probably best described as my own response to The Dark Tower and Six Gun Tarot. It’s something I did more or less completely for fun, with knowledge that even Weird Westerns set on post-apocalyptic future worlds are still not really marketable. So I don’t have any problem sharing it there. But I love Westerns. And I hated what the second of the books above, in particular, did with the genre. I think there’s enough room to be “punkish” without going all PC. And of course, if you’ve followed me long enough, you know I despise Message Fic.

I wrote this last year. It grew out of a short story character concept that sprang into my head a while before that: http://fav.me/d48a92f which earned me a Daily Deviation on dA. I couldn’t come up with a good story for Phoebe right off, after that. But she wouldn’t leave my head. So I turned back to the Wastes, and mashed up magic, western, post-apocalyptic adventure, steampunk, and a dash of potboiler (though much less than usual), to make what is probably my most straight-out adventure story. It started out with its own magic system, but wound its way into my Auroriverse. I’m not sorry for that. There are plenty of messed-up worlds to write about in it. Even if the current project and my Space Opera are distinct. 😉

It’s the story of a gambler, a gunslinger, and a cannibal (yes, he’s a good guy) in the last bit of civilization for a thousand miles in any direction. And ‘civilization’ is a loose term, when you speak of a world forsaken even by its gods. When one gets out of sight of the city’s gaslamps, anything goes. Really, I had as much fun as anything I’ve written outside my Urban Fantasies.

I tossed aside Brett Weeks Night Angel the other day. I’m fairly certain that establishes me as having fallen out of love with true GrimDark. Especially since I devoured Ringo’s Princess of Wands in 3 days. Yeah, I know, there’s a message in it. But contrary to dedicated message-fic masquerading as speculative fiction these days, there’s a STORY first. And Ringo isn’t Anvilicious about the message.  Besides, some people do need to know that not every believing Christian is the stereotype of a Bible Thumper. I’ll concede faith often plays an important part (and usually positive) in my stories. I don’t think you can be honest to historically-based fantasy without making it so. But that doesn’t mean I either have to make every hero ‘jaded on religion’ and a modernist in disguise. Or a bigot either. Those two character types have become a veritable cliche in modern fantasy, and not even the reviewers call it out. So yes, when Ringo makes a character who isn’t one of either, it’s nice to see. Much like the Carpenters in The Dresden Files.

Maybe this is why I’ve gravitated to Urban Fantasy for my reading these days. Epic Fantasy has been overrun by dark, depressing places I don’t care to visit, with characters that have few, if any, redeeming features. Glen Cook was never as depressing as the people who’ve come after him. Look at his Instrumentalities of the Night series. Sure, there’s a lot of darkness involved. But Piper is far from an unsympathetic character, even as a mercenary. It’s ironic we have to descend to the grime of the cities to find characters we can believe in anymore.

Times Like These Remind Me

That if I wanted to do ANYTHING else, other than be a writer, I should probably do that. The frustration of having to salvage work I had finished. Real life illness and loss, and then work piling on top of that. I guess I can hope that with all the stuff that’s happened this month, there won’t be anything that can get in the way of NaNoWriMo.

I’ll be set up to finish the second Sword & Sandal over the Thirty Day Frenzy this year. And having gotten sick, I was able to do some reading last week. Specifically Under a Graveyard Sky by John Ringo. The first book of a fast-moving zombie story (28 Days Later style Infected-Living Dead). It’s a fun read. Before that, I’d read the second Verity Price novel, which was a good read. But not as fun as the first.

I’m supposed to write a couple short pieces this week. But I’m so far behind I haven’t had a chance to think about them yet. Maybe I will once I get the notes from my Sword & Sandal out of the way this weekend.

Oh, and can I say, the craziness of CONCACAF on Tuesday night was one of the most EPIC sporting events I’ve ever seen. Americans rooting for Panama. Mexicans rooting for the USA. Panama rooting for Costa Rica. And the US, with SUBS, rallying to win a game they had nothing but pride and auditions to play for, earning their best record in the Hex of all time. But when Graham Zusi scored that goal, it was complicated. I never want the US to lose. But Mexico missing the World Cup? oooo, that would be so beautiful. All I can say is GO KIWIS!

On Writing Rules & Conventional Wisdom

I repeatedly see people posting “writing tips” or “rules” online about such things as “words that create distance from the reader.” Or “Don’t use prologues and epilogues.” “Avoid Author Tracts,” and of course, the ubiquitous, overused, “Show. Don’t Tell,” and ‘Don’t use adverbs.”

Now, let me say at first that I know that ‘writing rules’ get to be the way they are because they are, more often than not, correct. It often is wrong to use ‘think/realize’ in 3rd person contexts instead of describing the process. And nothing is more painful than reading adverbs in every sentence. And of course, I’ve done my fair share of skipping prologues that don’t seem to add anything to the narrative.

But, for every rule, there are exceptions. Neil Stephenson wouldn’t be nearly as famed as he is without his author tracts. And there is nothing wrong with using an adverb as a contrary manner. For instance, to indicate sarcasm or irony that otherwise would be missed by a reader. And to say “think” creates distance from the reader depends entirely on how it’s used. If we draw the reader into the internal monologue of the character, how is this creating distance?

And then there is this discussion I had with Ilona Andrews, author of The Edge and Kate Daniels series on Twitter yesterday.

And there’s the truth. “Do what works for the story.” Conventional Wisdom is often wrong, and very often unwise as well as wrong. If, when looking at the story, the right answer is to include a prologue, then Do it. Let the chips fall where they may.

Yes, readers will often skip a prologue. But if you write it with all the intensity a proper 1st chapter should have, then that’s their loss. They’ll realize that when they go back and read that crucial, exciting material you included. Or go back and see the hint you left at the beginning. (See the prologue for Larry Correia’s Warbound on how one should be done.)

Now that doesn’t mean always do the opposite. But everything in your story should be calculated to advance the narrative and its conflict. If it isn’t, then scrap it. If it is, then you’re doing right. The story is what matters. Not the style guide or the creative writing class tips.

A writer is an entertainer. So do what’s best to entertain the reader.

Using Scrivener for an Epic Fantasy

You’ve probably heard a great deal about http://www.literatureandlatte.com/. I bought it before attempting NaNoWriMo 2012. Since then, a number of friends have asked how I use Scrivener, and is it really better than Word Processor. Given that it usually is half-price on their website when you have a winner’s coupon, that might have been a minor mistake. But even at the full price of $40 dollars US, it’s been a bargain. Originally a Mac program, it’s Windows counterpart (which I use) is approaching feature parity. I’m not doing this on their solicitation or the encouragement of anyone but the friends I’ve had who’ve been curious how it works.

Since obtaining it in May of last year, I’ve used it for five separate new projects, two of which are multi-volume. And then adapted one previously written novel that I imported to Scrivener for editing. But for this, I’d like to talk about how I set it up for my intended five-volume Epic Fantasy (Sword, Sandal, & Sorcery style).  The basic format is set in the “Novel With Parts” template. Here it is on the ‘Corkboard,’ (with my own custom background).

EpicFormat1

 

The Binder, which functions exactly like a three-ring of our project would if you printed it all out, is set on the left. It’s currently open to the 2nd (in-progress) book of that series. But the corkboard is open to the ‘volumes’ page, furthest back. You can see the “First Draft” over my 1st volume. And I already have volumes 3-5 set up on the corkboard. Here’s the volume I’m working on in detail:

 

ef2

 

Here again, you can see the ‘index cards’ marked “first draft” and “to do” where I’ve been distracted from working on the novel by my need to blog. 😉 Every chapter has at least 1 index card. In fact, every scene has an index card. Each is organized with the appropriate chapter. What’s cool about this? If I decide I need to reorder my chapters, all I have to do is slide the index card to the new location. NO copy-and-paste like with a word processor. All I have to do is recompile and it’s all in the right place. The only editing concerns I have is to check consistency in the timeline.  I can compile all this all at once, or a few chapters to check scenes.

Also, Scrivener saves whenever I’m idle for 2secs. And it keeps FIVE full backups. So unless I blow up my laptop, it’s protected from corruption. Of course, being OCD, I copy the Open Office version saved to a flash drive. Also, in the binder, I can keep all my documentation on characters, setting, plot sequences, and research web sites. All of them are organized in the Binder. 1 click to open them, and I can hide them when I don’t need them.

It’s not immune to my mistakes. But it’s pretty darn close. Plus, if you make changes you’re not sure you will like, you can use the ‘snapshot’ feature to roll back to the version you preferred. This is especially useful in editing.

I was able to lay out the entire plotline for all five books on the corkboard. I’m sure I’ll add/change/move things around between now and then. But I can use this at a glance to find where I am, and anything I may need, before or subsequent, to maintain consistency and ensure I don’t show too much, too soon. Or leave a plotline underdeveloped.

It’s a great tool for the writer. The larger the project, the more useful it will prove. But even in my single novel projects, it’s a profitable experience.

 

Salvaging August

A host of real-life issues kept kicking me in the head all month long. They call them the dog-days for a reason.

But I finished the first book of my Sword & Sandal series. And I like the story and all three main characters. (There are, of course, a host of additional characters, as befits any Epic Fantasy.) I went straight into the second book, tentatively titled Chosen in War. I’m into the second chapter of it, even though I didn’t have a great week writing.

I also finished reading two books this week, and I can safely say I recommend them both. Of course, one of them, The Tyrant’s Law, by Daniel Abraham, is the third in the Epic Fantasy The Dagger and Coin series. It’s a bit slower than the first two. But it develops the characters well and sets up a promising confrontation for the last two books. The other book was It was the Best of Sentences. It was the Worst of Sentences. It’s a simple, pithy grammar and style guide. I’ll recommend this over the style guide you’ve probably seen in classes and celebrates a half-century of telling people WRONG grammar advice.

I’m going to try to set up a Table of Contents for The Iron Conqueror to set it up for epub this weekend. Then I’ll give it a final once-over before sending it off. I wanted to get this done before now. But formatting is about as far from what I wanted to do with all the other stuff as I could imagine.

For a bad month, it wasn’t unproductive. That has to count for something, right?

 

Well, that was an odd way to finish a book.

I tend to be a very linear writer. I have an outline, I think I know where the story will come out when I start it, and I move through pretty much in sequence. Very rarely has jumping ahead to write something and then ‘filling in the gaps’ between worked for me. In fact, just the opposite. Because now I’ve committed my characters to a particular set of actions that must follow, regardless of what their inclinations would suggest. Whereas in the way I typically work, if I see a player fighting against the outline, as it were, I can introduce a new set of circumstances, or a tweak to the flow, and adjust for their ‘grievances’ as it were.

But this time, I got to the end of the sword & sandal, and I realized I liked the symbolism and foreshadowing more than if I included one more chapter with my Legion Commander. But I wanted another chapter with him ‘before’ the end, to show where their plotline was heading. So I backed up and added a scene at the beginning of the final third, rather than at the end.

Then I was going to add a prologue, but it’s one of those moments where I like it when I think about it. But when I start putting it on the page, I say ‘meh.’ So I’ll leave it for now, and maybe things will firm up for one as time goes by. Or maybe not. 😉 In any case, it’s the strangest end for a book I’ve had. Of course, it’s always a little different when you write the ending of the early book in a series. I want a firm ending. But it has to be one that points ahead too. Even with my Steampunk, each book comes to pretty much a full stop. I don’t do cliffhangers or leave GIANT dangling plots. Rather I pick up where the world is from before, and begin to spin a new danger from that. (Though if I ever do a full-on war for the Steampunk series, that might change, hehe.)

So here I am, it’s almost September, and I just finished a book. If I start something new in the next couple weeks, it’ll probably run into NaNo, which means I might not be able to participate in it (not fair if I don’t have at least 50,000 words left, at least). On the other hand, going two months without writing would feel like cutting off my hands at this point.

I might sit down and redraft Clockwork Malevolence, the second Griffin Tales book. On the whole, the plot to that is probably the most convoluted of anything I’ve written. And I think I could make it a little less opaque, without taking away the twists, if I redraft. I’ll have to reread it and decide.

But still, I finished another rough draft. The story came out where it was supposed to. And I like the tale, even though the title isn’t leaving me all a quitterpated right now. I’m sure that will come in time. 😉