The Draft is Done

Never-Heroes-Zhyx-Illustration

Well, it is official. The manuscript, apart from the most superficial of edits, has been completed. It took me a little over a year, a total of three drafts to get through, and a final edit that removed a grand total of 30,000 words from the final product. As it stands now, this draft runs 141,104 words.

Apart from a few changes, this thing is done. Can’t say it hasn’t been an exiting year filled with discovery, and that this journey helped me find a home amongst my characters. But above all else, I can say something that not a lot of people can say. I finished a book. I didn’t just write a draft and call it a day, but went through it, studied it, polished it, built it up a little at a time, and made it something that I can now comfortably say is a completed work.

Over this past year, I have come to know my characters very well. Often when writing, it takes time to get back into the right mindset and find the voice of someone else hiding inside you, but in these last months, these characters have become family to me. Journeying with them became my home away from home, and for a time, it was the only real source of joy in my otherwise mundane life. Now I have spent so much time with them, it has come to the point where meditation and reflection are not required for me to find them. Now it is as easy as calling them on the phone.

A lot has changed for me this last year. After completing college I moved from the soft rolling hills from Ohio to the hustle bustle of Los Angeles, a very jarring change indeed. Now thousands of miles from my closest family and friends, I found myself in some very poor living conditions which I shared with six other people, had numerous fights and altercations, got a boring and often stressful job in retail, got an internship which appears to have been a dead end, and that is just for starters.

Through it all, this book was my one joy in life. I couldn’t work on it as often as I would have liked. Doing it at home was out of the question because of the crowding, so I would often leave for work early, sometimes as much as six hours, just to have the peace and quiet to concentrate. Now I have a new place where I can work in peace, more time to pursue a career in entertainment, and as of now, a completed manuscript to start shopping around.

I never thought myself capable of writing a book, least of all hammering out over 100,000 words on my first serious outing, but here the manuscript is in front of me, eager for more eyes to read it.

A long and perilous journey awaits. The journey to find an agent, sifting through rejection letter after rejection letter before finding that one resounding ‘yes’, and finishing the story. This is but the first in at least five, more likely six books. I do know the ending, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a little intimidating, knowing there are more of these to get through before all is said and done. But there is a comfort knowing I won’t make the journey alone. The characters of this story will be there to guide me home.

That aside, here are some updates on the artwork. Here is the latest picture of River. He is pretty much done though his morning star needs the final touches. That should happen sometime tomorrow.

River Concept Art 2

As for Zhyx himself, those teeth have been finalized. This scan right here shows his pearly whites in all their glory. Once this sketch is outlined, detail will be added to this sketch to make it just as detailed, if not more so, than the original portrait by our good friend David Spada.

Zhyx Teeth 4

Thanks all for reading, and looking forward to talking to you soon. Will keep you posted on what comes next.

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Over Halfway Finished and River Artwork Update

Today another milestone was hit on the writing of my fantasy adventure epic, Zhyx. Chapter 11 was finished.

Yes. In the last two days, I completed my run throughs of chapters 10 and 11. This further dropped the wordcount to 149,857 words, the story so far having shed over 20,000 words of superfluous material. It also brings us past the halfway point of the story.

In total, this first installment of Zhyx runs twenty chapters. Reaching this latest mark, we now only have 9 to get through. So far, no major changes.

I was initially quite worried about what going through this book would be like after taking a month off of it. It is with great relief that I say the experience has been very positive. The only material lost was material not up to par with the rest of the book, and its excising has helped the story move along at a much more brisk pace. The upcoming chapters 12, 13 and 14 were very difficult for me to get through as they constituted a multi chapter series of action vignettes. That is one of the reasons I greatly look forward to this run through to see them again with fresh eyes, and give the part of the book that held me back the most that final much needed polish.

More concept art updates as well. River is coming along nicely. As you can see the design went through some major changes since the last meeting. His face now looks much younger and his hair is much shorter. The artist and I did agree that the spikes here are a bit too anime-esque so we will take care of those come the next meeting in a few days. Regardless, hope you guys enjoy the progress displayed here.

River Concept Art 1

Have a few days off starting tomorrow and aim to finish two chapter run throughs a day. Barring any unexpected events, I should be up to chapter 15 by the 23rd. Looking forward to letting you all know how it does.

Debating on posting some brief paragraph samples from these chapters. Let me know what you guys think about that in the comments. Thanks for reading and see you guys soon.

Chapter 2 Illustration Concept to Completion

The creation of the chapter 2 illustration for the fantasy adventure epic Zhyx proved to be a lot more challenging for the first one as it is the first time the lead is seen in such detail. The link here shows the step by step process by which this stunning illustration was completed, from the first sketches to the design change a month prior to its completion. Hope you all enjoy this stunning work from our illustrator.

Chapter 9 Completed and Zhyx Artwork Update

Just completed my run through of chapter 9 of Zhyx. With a word count of 152,108 and only 11 chapters to go, things are certainly moving along here.

Chapter 9 brings the characters to the point of no return. After this chapter, they descend into a sunken city, meet the villain face to face, and the action really takes off. The edits of these next few chapters promise to be very exciting. A lot will be cut out for use in later books, but that is necessary to streamline things on this end.

As promised the new artwork for the titular character is coming along. Here is what David has completed thus far for the big wyrm himself.

Zhyx Teeth 1

It is crude, but as the concept art pages show, we begin with sketches such as this. They are the stepping stone on which David creates his much more elaborate artwork.

For the more detailed picture, David ran a few reference pictures by me which I approved. The below picture of the fossil has teeth that we both very much like.Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 12.58.19 PM

The Komodo Dragon here also has a few things we like, namely the look on the inside of his mouth. Both of these are things we currently plan to incorporate into the final composite.

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Tomorrow I will be having a meeting with Joe in regards to the illustration of River, and the week is barely getting started. Looks like this wee will be a full one, with many new updates for you all.

Thanks for reading and I will continue to keep you posted.

Chapters 6,7 and 8 Finished, and Artwork Update

The saga of Zhyx, the Great Red Wyrm ebbs ever forward.

The last few days have been nothing short of exhausting, because I have been writing non stop. Since my last post, at a rate of about a chapter a day, I have been proofreading and line editing. Chapters 6, 7 and 8 are now in the bag, with the manuscript having dropped down to 153,661 words.

That is almost 19,000 words that have been cut out since the line edit began. 19,000 words that are, in a word, not very good. Thus the characters have been streamlined, the story is moving along much quicker, description is blunt and to the point, and, perhaps most difficult, the action scenes have been given the gift of brevity.

One of my main concerns with this story is that, while it is predominantly character based and filled with lots of emotions to make the journey worthwhile, it is in the end an action story. How can it not been when your main character is a colossal firedrake? In my experience, action sequences are a more visual art than a written one. Something that can take up half a second of screen time could require an entire paragraph of description on the page. In these first nine chapters, the book boasts five action scenes of varying lengths, some brief, others pages long. In going back over them, they are gaining enough variety to keep the story from getting tedious. At least that is my hope.

Also noticed that each of the first nine chapters all begin and end the same way. Zhyx flies into a setting, a brief vignette occurs that moves the story along, and he flies out. It is not until chapter 9 that he enters a setting he will remain for several an extended period. While I was initially worried this was too repetitive, it did reveal an unintentional perk of the character. Being that Zhyx is a dragon, he can easily move from place to place uninhibited. Thus, the better part of the first half of the book is spent with him traveling all over the country of Haiden, which is excellent for world building purposes. No week long horse rides to write around here. That would require me being much more talented. Zhyx can get where he is going in a matter of hours, characters in tow or not. He is kind of like the Milenium Falcon if it had a mind of its own.

Also, City of Wolves is officially in the bag. Proofread through it last night to make sure it was ready for festival submission and sent it out to my partner for one final rush through. After that, it goes into the circuit, and I get to see if it is worth anything artistically. Now freed of that bind, I can concentrate fully on this book series.

A few days back, I told of my nervousness as far as where things would go next. Delving more fully into this world once more, I think I have figured out a pretty decent road map of where to go next in order to reach the ending.

Artwork is coming along. Below is the latest progress on deuteragonist, River. In figuring out the aforementioned roadmap, it is now clear this character will be going to some very exciting places, and become a legend in his own right. The aim is to finish this picture on Wednesday.

River Concept Art 2

More artwork coming up for the main hero finally showing what his toothy maw looks like, so that is exciting too. Work on the chapter 3 illustration has begun, so expect to see more of that in the next few weeks as well.

Chapter 9 will be completed tomorrow. It is only a matter of time now before the search for an agent begins, and I begin the long and tortuous task of surviving the sea of rejection letters that are sure to come.

Thanks all of you for reading this and investing your time and interest in this project. That means a lot to me and everyone else involved. Take care and see you soon.

The Middle of the Story, What Comes Next

Well, chapter 5 of my fantasy adventure epic has been proofread and edited, thus completing act 1. The proofread has this excised about 11000 unnecessary words from the story, and I am now roughly a quarter of the way through. 15 chapters to go and I will be set.

There are a few reasons I am nervous about this. One is that I did not hire a professional editor. I unfortunately don’t have the money for that, and I already have three wonderful people basically working for me for free at this point. To get one more person involved would needlessly overcomplicate things. Since it is hard for me to view the story objectively, I do hope my own critique will be enough for the story to come alive.

The other much more dire reason I am nervous is not knowing just what happens next. Obviously there is a lot more of the story to tell, a lot more characters to introduce, and plenty, and I stress plenty, or arcs to complete. This massive load of work reinforced something I always felt, and do not hear that often from teachers or writers. Most people say the ending is the hardest part of any story.

That is bogus. The ending is not the hardest part. Often times, that is one of the earliest things a writer will come up with. For me anyway, after figuring out the beginning of a story, the ending makes itself known rather quick. Something that feels like the logical conclusion to the stage you just set, it never was an issue with me.

No, the ending is not the hardest part. The middle is. The long, drawn out, treacherous middle of the story.

This is something that is often called the second act nightmare. You can see it in a lot of movies and books that have memorable setups and fantastic payoffs, but the middle is just something that is drawn out, dull, and all around unsatisfying. It feels less like a story and more like filler, spending too much time building up the climax and not enough time making the audience understand why they should care. It is enough to stop a story dead in its tracks.

Several books are needed to complete this story. At least four more, though maybe five. There are several characters you have yet to meet that will play a big part in things to come. The relationships between the characters are just beginning, and the destination they are heading to is something I already know. But how, oh how, to get there.

Shortage of ideas is not a problem, but if it doesn’t contribute in some way to the main story, it serves no purpose. I have lots of ideas from fight scenes to dialogue, even other adversaries to overcome, but tying them together is proving to be a challenge. I cannot put in a book just for the sake of a plot punt. There are plenty of ideas I had for stories and villains for the heroes to fight on their way to the final boss, but as fun as many of these ideas are, if they feel shoehorned in to me, odds are the audience will feel the same.

There are 15 more chapters to get through and a publisher to find in the meantime. While facing these challenges, I will have much planning to do. But I know that ending. I have known the ending for a very long time now. But the matter of how to get there in a way that maximizes the rewarding feel for my readers. The experience is a lot like climbing a mountain. You can see the peak from where you are, but there are an awful lot of pitfalls to overcome along the way.

River Artwork Update and Chapter 4 Proofread

Artwork for the series’ deuteragonist, River, has begun. This is what Joe and I have completed so far. There will be some delays due to our work schedules, but if things open up we should have him done by the end of next week, hopefully sooner. He has been drawn in this way to get a better idea at his figure prior to adding his wardrobe.

River is easily the most important character apart from the series’ fire breathing star, and has in many ways been the most difficult to realize because it is easy to fall back on tried and true cliches and miss out on originality. But with this draft coming along, I think his humble beginnings are pretty well set.

Obviously some more work will have to go into him, but this is what we have so far.Chapter 4 was completed. A lot of cutting and a lot of condensing, but the story is much better for it now. Hope you enjoy this preview and thanks for reading.

River_01

Zhyx Artwork Update

Been working in pictures of our scaly protagonist. With the illustration for chapter 3 set to begin soon, we obviously need to get his toothy visage squared away. Here are some of the samples that David sent me for the look of Zhyx when he displays his open maw. All of them are very promising, though I find myself liking A, B and C the best.

Though crude at the moment, these promise to pave way to something spectacular upon completion.

I have finished the 4th draft of the feature script and finally hung up the saddle on that project, so it is now back to working on this book. Line editing on chapter 4 begins today.

Will keep you all posted and enjoy this sneak preview.

Zhyx's Teeth

The Two Script Challenge Conclusion, Life Happens and Comedy Writing

Well, it is August, so what became of the two script challenge?

These last few months have been a hard lesson in one of life’s unpleasant realities. Sometimes things just happen.

In the end, I did succeed in the two script challenge, but not in the capacity I so hoped. My feature script for City of Wolves was in fact finished, and is currently undergoing a 4th draft, which should be finished in the next few days. As for the B movie comedy and the nuclear war thriller, they didn’t come to fruition. Instead I wrote a 26 page Outer Limits style short film. Not a bad short film, and defiantly something to make in the future, but I was unable to complete the second feature screenplay.

The reasons why have been the source of much stress since January of this year. My living situation was, in a word, pretty horrible. I moved into a studio with three strangers, and it was supposed to stay three. For the first few months things were fine. We hung out and did things together, and even worked on some short films.

Then my landlord threw in another guy and said it would only be temporary and go back down to four. Then he threw in another and said it would go back down to five. Then he threw in another and said it would go back down to six. The rent went down, but the stress went up, and before I knew it, I was sharing a pitifully small apartment with six other guys.

The moment I walked through that door, I had no privacy, no peace. no solitude. So I would go to work and it would be the only time I had any measure of peace. I would sometimes go to work as much as six hours early just so I could concentrate and work on the book, because I sure as hell couldn’t do it at home. And whenever I was off work, it was right back into the fire.

These guys always fought. And I mean always. There was always some new thing in this place. The meth head coming home high and soiling himself, the Christian and the pothead fighting over a guest, and the many, many intrusions of bedbugs.

I had some good times with these people. They did play a big part in getting my short film made, and for that I will forever be grateful to them. But even then, there was always a feeling of alienation and a complete lack of belonging in this group. That they would regularly quarrel with me caught in the middle was not something that was doing wonders for my writing. I sank deep into depression and tried to find a new place.

Last month around the 20th, I finally managed, and now have what I lacked for a crippling nine months. A place of solitude and safety to come home to at the end of the day.

Of course, even after the move, I hit a roadblock on the two script challenge, namely with that B movie comedy. That script was intended to be the second work to be completed these last two months. It stalled due to my own shortcomings as an artist.

I am not terribly good at comedy.

This second script was very much in the spirit of 80s romps, most notably John Carpenter’s energetic masterpiece Big Trouble in Little China.

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 2.23.34 PM

Big Trouble in Little China is an absolutely wonderful movie. After only earning modest returns at the US Box Office in 1986, it went on to have a lucrative life on home video, becoming a bona fide classic by the 2010s. It has since spawned music video parodies, action figures, been a major influence in video games such as Duke Nukem and Mortal Combat, and is even slated to be remade by none other than Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.

There were many other such films in this era, notable competition being The Monster Squad and The Golden Child, but neither of them found the life that Big Trouble did. It is astonishing as a comedy because the one joke in the movie is the dialogue by Kurt Russell’s Jack Burton. Had it not been for his lines, the movie would have played more or less straight, as an imaginative but not too memorable fantasy action film. Burton changed the movie to something else, and that is what made it so special.

My script had a similar premise. A straight up horror film featuring Nazis, the occult, and cannibalism with one lead character providing the majority of the humor. But the dialogue I wrote was just not that funny. Without this dialogue, the script quite simply wouldn’t work. I struggled to find lines as good as “ten foot tall road block” and “It’s all in the reflexes”, but to no avail. With much disappointment, I set the project down for another time, and in the remaining time before August, penned the short film instead.

So August began with the closing of the two script challenge, with a feature and a short under my belt before I returned to work on the novel. Not a failure, but not nearly as much as I hoped for. I do however think it is important to recognize one’s shortcomings. When I return to this project in due time, hopefully I will have more experience in writing comedy.

In the meantime I have returned to Tygan and have already polished up the three chapters of the book, and my San Francisco supernatural thriller is five pages away from completion. Perhaps I am a bit too hard on myself. That is an awful lot.