My Writing Has Changed, & I Like It

As i plow through the final run through of my first novel, editing down and polishing each chapter and scene, something has become pretty clear. A lot has changed about my writing style these last three years of writing.

I came out to LA thinking I already knew it all. It happens a lot to artists. You go through your college courses and suddenly think that makes you a hot item. If you ask me, vanity is what does the most damage to art, when people are so full of themselves they think there’s nothing more to learn about their chosen craft. It’s why you see some artists who never get off the ground, and others that fall from their throne.

The ass beating I got out here over the next three years was good for me I think, because it only made me dive deeper into the work which meant the most to me. Since then, I’ve dug stuff out of my book I never thought myself capable of doing.

This was most obvious during my run through of my latest chapter. Chapter 8 of my novel was largely intended as a pace holder, with a little exposition to set up my villain and some world building. Hardly what you’d call a significant moment, but a necessary one. In this last draft however, some kind of magic happened, that kind you feel when your fingers start tearing through the keyboard like someone on the disco floor.

I wrote a two page scene that ended up becoming perhaps the most significant moment in the entire book. It’s been happening more and more, moments of clarity when the true purpose of a story or scene comes out. You don’t have time to feel stupid for missing it before it has already been written down.

Sometime’s it’s hard to not gush over your work. They’re like your children, and whenever they learn to walk or speak, you want to tell the world. Well, my kid seems to be doing very well, almost ready to run a marathon.

Getting over myself seems to have been a big part of the change, because it’s not and never has been about me. It’s always about the story. Realizing that has been liberating.

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Never Heroes Chapter 3: New Version Uploaded

Well it’s been a long week of edits, but chapter 3 of our novel Never Heroes is now available for viewing, bringing to an end our special sneak preview. 

Never-Heroes-Dragon-Size-Chart

Chapter 3 finds our high in stature and hot in lungs hero as he continues to track the two thieves that plundered his favorite treasure, right to a well known city where warriors and soldiers are known to retire. While there he finds several key clues to the thieves’ whereabouts, and begins to form a subtle but noticeable bond with the mysterious orphan accompanying him on his travels.

This chapter went through some big changes. We lost a few small scenes from it, helping the overall pace. Also this chapter used to contain an action sequence when the dragon first enters the town, but this was also cut in favor of a more casual entrance, one that hopefully plays to humorous effect.

So without further delay, please sit back and enjoy Never Heroes Chapter 3: A Ganbury Stroll. If you haven’t yet, feel free to read both Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.

We hope you enjoy, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comments. Don’t hesitate the alert us to any of those pesky typos that no doubt have managed to sneak through.

Never Heroes Chapter 2: New Version Uploaded

Yesterday I posted the updated version of the first chapter of my book, the fantasy/action epic Never Heroes. That chapter represents the first segment of a three part sneak preview. Today we’re posting the second part, our updated version of chapter 2.

Zhyx the Red Dragon meets River

After what was hopefully an exciting chase through his lair, our dragon protagonist has taken flight to track down a pair of thieves who have stolen his favorite treasure. Following a conversation he overheard, the wyrm flies to a Tomb they stated was along their escape route. He doesn’t find them, instead coming across something, or someone, of far greater significance.

This used to be chapter 3, but the original chapter 2 was cut as it was little more than an info dump. Like chapter 1, this part of the book has gone through some of the least amount of changes since I started, containing a lot of my shortcomings as a writer a few years ago. So we went through it again, re-wrote much of the prose, and fixed a few small narrative problems here and there to vastly improve both its pace and content.

We’re happy with how this one turned out and hope you agree that it continued the fun thrills of chapter 1, something that we aim to carry all the way to the final page.

So please enjoy Never Heroes Chapter 2: The Flatlander. Let us know what you think, feel free to point out any pesky typos that may have slipped through, and most importantly have a blast.

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Never Heroes Chapter 1: New Version Uploaded

Everybody’s day is a little brighter when dragons are involved, which is why I’m happy to share our latest progress report with all you.

As mentioned before, I’ve been hard at work and polishing the manuscript for an interested party. For all newcomers and those who need reminding, my book is Never Heroes. It tells the story of a dragon who becomes an unlikely hero after being blackmailed by a group of adventurers. The first three chapters have been posted on this blog to give a little taste of this book which has been both my greatest joy and the bane of my existence these last three years.

We’re currently working on the new pages for chapters 2 and 3. Currently the old pages still have the previous versions which required a lot of editing. We’re working on fixing those up now and including the illustrations and concept art we’ve accumulated over the last few years.

In the meantime, please enjoy chapter 1. It no doubt has the occasional stray typo because I’m terrible with that sort of thing, but aside from that this is about as good as it’s ever gonna get. It is my sincere hope that it’s enough to entertain you.

So please, without further delay, sit back and enjoy Never Heroes Chapter 1: The Great Red Wyrm.

Thanks for your time and we’ll be seeing you tomorrow with Chapter 2.

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Edit Update: Desired Wordcount In Sight

A few weeks ago I completed an edit on my book, cutting out a third of it after receiving some feedback from one of my query letters. My hopes were to bring it down to 100K from an initial draft of over 150K, the latter of which is not what you’d call a good length for a first time author. I thought the goal was impossible. Now it seems but a skip and a hop away.

My last edit was based more or less on length, bringing my book down to 105K. It was far better than I could have ever expected. Still, I needed to go through the book one more time, checking for typos, plot holes, leftovers from the previous draft and polish up the prose. So how is that edit going?

Since beginning, I’ve lost over 3000 additional words, bringing the edit down to 102K, and I’m still only on chapter 6. The book has 17 chapters total. A few hundred words here, a few hundred more there, it looks like a final edit below 100K is going to happen. But this latest edit I haven’t just been focusing on quantity, but also quality. Since my length is so close, I can really look at the prose and see what parts of it need the most work, and give them the attention they deserve.

Just yesterday I finished editing through chapter 5. I made a lot of small changes to the manuscript, especially in the first two chapters which had remained the most unchanged during my efforts to finish this thing up, but ultimately they became different enough and new enough for them to match the quality of the rest of the book.

I also caught some other references which would have proved problematic, to say the least, had they been thrown in. One of the characters in my book was a dragon deity who I’d clung to for some time. I wanted to keep her in because I enjoyed the design work one of my friends had done for her, and though it would be just too big a shame to lose her. As things wore on, it became clear that in this story, the character was but a talking head, delivering exposition and nothing more. While all the other characters grew richer and livelier, she remained the same in spite of my efforts.

Saar'Jya-The-Dragon

It was a painful decision to cut her out of the book, but as Stephen King says, you must kill your darlings. Maybe in a future story she will have some place, but not this one. It was a decision I came to in the middle of my previous run through, so the first couple of chapters had references to the deity here and there. As if now, all references to the character have been scrubbed clean.

I do hope she’ll come back in some capacity, but we’ll see.

Right now the book has a wordcount of 102,259, a far cry from the 151,861 it was. But the lost words lacked the meaning I was seeking, and their loss makes this story less heavy, allowing it to fly that much higher like I always hoped it would.

Can I Lose 5K More?

Looking at the stack of pages before me, a stack which once contained 152K words but now contains 105K, I wonder if I can trim it just a little more. The query letter from the interested party asking if I could edit my book down to the coveted length of 100K has filled me with hope.

It seems my book would need another passover. I went through chapter 1 once more and was immediatly confronted with some editing casualties.

For one, I’ve really grown to hate my first chapter, not for it not being a fast paced action sequence with some solid character development. I’ve just read it so many times that it has come to lack the freshness it once had. I was even considering rewriting it just to freshen it up, but going over it once more aside from a few quickly fixed issues, I couldn’t find anything really wrong with it.

So I guess that’s less work for me, eh?

Of course this isn’t really easy. There were plenty of references that needed to be removed. One of our characters has been excised from the story completely, so I removed all references of her from the novel, after page 50. Somehow I forgot to get those references out of my first few chapters.

Another change was a subtle alteration of my lead. I thought it would be more interesting if he was more greedy in the beginning, making is transformation by the end more rewarding to the reader.

So what have these changes wrought? Is the book dropping in length? When I started this latest round of edits, the book was roughly 105,800 words long. Now it is 105,200, a loss of 600 words. I’ve got 16 more chapters to get through, more than enough to do some more chipping to make this sculpture more in line with what I want.

While my hatched job was done quickly, I expect this run through to happen at a more leisurely pace. What I aim to concentrate on isn’t length but dialogue, prose, and polishing out what little issues yet remain.

I must say I feel pretty good about now, and I hope, really really hope that this will be the last major run through of this book. It really has become like a child. You love them with all your heart, but that doesn’t stop them from being the occasional pain in the ass.

Oops: A Few Crucial Moments Missing From My Book

As artists, we can’t help but get egg on our faces every now and then. This is especially true with stories. A story is a very complicated thing, and working on one for so long, sometimes your thoughts get a little jumbled. That’s precisely what happened to me since I just found out in my latest draft of my book, I forgot to include a few moments that while small are very crucial.

During my last edit, I got the idea of moving one scene of dialogue into another later moment in the book as it felt more appropriate for the characters. It was a crucial bit of world building that explains a power my lead character has, one that has serious impacts on the story in the final act. Another sequence was cut due to pacing, but as a result it actually diminished a moment in the climax which served as a defining character moment for my unlikely hero.

I honestly did believe I re-wrote the once sequence in the later chapter, and it was only after cutting the latter sequence that I realized how well it set up the scene in my climax. The scenes are not terribly long. Together they at best run about 800 words, but this served as a testament to me just what a few words could mean for a story. Today, starting my (good God please let this be the) final run through of the manuscript, and my first order of business was to put these two scenes back into the story.

Lucky for me the two moments fit well together, one actually serving as a decent transition into the next. They both conveniently fit into one chapter. Makes my job easier for sure.

What did I learn? Well, for one I really need to perk up my organization skills. Obviously something upstairs got jumbled for a mistake like this to happen. Maybe it’s also a sign that I’ve been working so hard on this thing that I need to take a bit of a break. Even during my vacation I found myself at the keyboard, pounding away and bringing my book down to a reasonable level.

Of course there’s something positive to say about all this. I did catch it.

An Edit of 100K Words In Sight

A few days ago, I finished a round of edits on my fantasy adventure novel Never Heroes, which I’ve been working on pretty much nonstop since the summer of 2014, bringing my work time on it to three years now. I’d completed what I believed was the final draft sometime back in May, only the 2nd or 3rd time I’d believed the book was done.

Just one problem. The book was too long. For a first time author, the word count of 150K was a bit steep, something one of the people responding to my query wasn’t shy about saying. The response I got was the idea interested them, but they wondered if I’d be able to shorten the book to a more manageable 100K, effectively cutting out a third of the book. I began a round of edits, cure I’d never come close to that goal. I thought maybe I’d reach 120K, 115 if I was lucky.

As it stands currently, my book has dropped to 106K words.

All I can say is that I’m exhausted, but also relieved the book is now this short. The fact that it had dropped so steeply in length will make it much more attractive to a potential publisher. This hasn’t been an easy journey, and I’ve thought the end of was in sight more than a few times only to find there was still work aplenty to be done. Effectively I had to learn the art of writing these last few years, character development, plot structure, and now the arduous task of editing one’s work to something at least resembling perfection.

So what did I lose? The answer is I lost nothing of any real substance. I’d a funny habit of overcompensating and overwriting certain parts of the book, including things like unnecessary flashbacks, stretching out scenes to un needed length. The book was even shortened by a chapter, one group of pages crammed full of so much filler it quickly dropped from 16 pages to a mere four or five. I slapped those pages onto another chapter and called it a day.

I didn’t lose many entire sequences. Mostly I’d cut out a paragraph here and there. When working on a bit of prose I’d wonder just how do I make this good? Eventually I’d say if it doesn’t work, just cut it, shaving off a paragraph with another couple hundred of words.

These efforts have carried the book to places I couldn’t have imagined, the groundwork for a trilogy taking root every time I’d mull things over or dance my fingers across the keys of my Mac Book. We’re not quite done yet. Now that the book is shorter, I aim to go through it one last time and fix a few issues that have plagued me, from my flawed first two chapters to various other bits of prose that a shine. It should’t take long. Maybe another month or two. During that time I plan to bring it down below 100K. It’s only five thousand words. I can do it.

Is this my final round of edits on the book? I sure as hell hope so because I’ve developed a kind of love hate relationship with my book. I do believe in it and these characters have done their due to keep me alive and dreaming. But it has been a struggle, hitting the book with the paddles over and over again and struggling to bring it to life.

But it’s breathing, and that alone is an immense relief.

Once this round is done I’ll be posting the updated first three chapters again and linking them. I’d like to thank everyone who stayed with me this far, through all of the false finishes and problems I’ve faced, because your support does mean a lot. I hope it’s been less of a chore to read this thing than it has been to write it.

20K Words Gone & Half A Book Left To Edit

Three days into a three week vacation back to the midwest, I’ve taken the time to get back to work on editing and sprucing up my first book. It’s overall been a pretty good experience, reassuring me that My work is not the trite I feared, and it’s also helped me cut out the more dull bits.

After receiving some constructive feedback on my manuscript length from a recent query letter, I decided to go back through the story and cut out whatever fat I could. I have thus far managed to bring the total word count down from 151K to 131K, cutting out a total of 20K words. To clarify, this is over three chapters worth of material.

Honestly I’m surprised, pleasantly so, at just how much of the story is coming off. I’ve not really deleted an excessive amount of scenes. Mainly I’ve just been cutting or re-writing lines of dialogue I don’t like and shortening bits of prose so they don’t seem to overindulge so much. Thus far? I’ve maybe cut out one scene and that’s about it. I may lose one more by book’s end. Depending on how much I cut from one chapter, I may end up editing two chapters into one. Not necessarily a bad thing, if you ask me.

I’m not too confident we’ll reach out goal of 100K words, an ideal maximum for a first time author, but we’re already a good deal shorter than we were, losing the mediocre bits of this narrative so only be best is left behind. Even if we don’t reach that goal, being shorter will defiantly help the book’s chances during the search for an agent and publisher.

Thanks for everyone who has stuck with us so far. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer before this story finds its way to print.

Wondering About Relocation

Last Saturday I flew out of Los Angeles to begin a three week vacation to the midwest. Spread between Kansas and Ohio, my trip will take me to many places from my youth, a kind of step back in time to escape the hustle bustle of the big city. In the last few months I have been wondering if someday soon I should leave Los Angeles, and never return.

I seek to make my living off writing, writing scripts, novels, articles and so forth. The good thing about that of course is you can do that just about anywhere. Stephen King for example, one of my heroes of the printed word, made his living in Maine, a state there’s pretty much nothing in save its aesthetic beauty.

I’ve taken a few trips back to the bread basket since moving to California, and increasingly I’ve noticed something rather odd about my returning trips. I don’t enjoy getting off the plane. That’s not the way someone should feel when coming back from a trip. Everyone should enjoy the feeling of going home and walking through their front door again.

These last two and a half years have certainly been an adventure. I dined with Steven Spielberg’s mother, met one of my personal heroes with John Carpenter, saw many sights, met many friends, and have matured greatly in my artistic skill. I wouldn’t trade it for the world, except maybe those few months I shared an apartment with someone addicted to meth. But the city is a lot louder than I’m used to. Things that were non issues in my neck of the woods like traffic and pollution are every day occurrences here, and looking up at the monoliths of concrete and steel feels less like gazing upon fame and fortune, and more like peering out through the bars of a prison.

Does this mean I’m giving up? No. As said before, I can write anywhere, even if it’s between Kansas and Ohio. But has a final decision been made? Not yet. I’ve got many duties to take care of down in Los Angeles before relocation is something I’d consider. I have a short film to finish for one, and need to see if some opportunities pan out as far as my career goes. Maybe those things will help me move into another place, see more parts of the city that I love, and finally ground me as an West Coast guy. You never know.

In the meantime, I at least have a plan B. A friend has already generously made the offer to let me move in with him, back to a land of cheaper rents and more meager stresses. Going back to the Buckeye State may be exactly what it takes to kick my writing into gear. The pressures of Los Angeles often leave me feeling like typing is a time waster. You should never feel that way about your art.