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.

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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.

Reading My First Draft Made Me Feel A Lot More Secure About My Writing

We’ve all had those moments when we doubt our work, be it drawing, music or in my case, writing. I’m in my late twenties wondering just where the hell my life is going, and one of the few pleasures I get out of my day is when I write. I spend a lot of time with my fingers doing their favorite little dance on the keyboard, sometimes for a book, sometimes for a script, sometimes for a short story that just sort of popped in there and never left. My writing is not only my favorite thing to do, but I also believe it may be my only way to lead a happy, successful life. But is it any good?

I’ve been quite depressed the last few weeks, signing off Facebook with the exception of professional and writing updates, and even leaving a forum of friends I’ve known for the last ten years. It’s been rough going, due in no small part to my insecure feelings about my work and if I’m really the artist I want to be. Currently my pet project is my book, a fantasy epic and the first in a four part series about a dragon who is blackmailed into becoming a hero. Though it is my pride and joy, I am familiar with the saying that no one wants to believe they have an ugly baby. Is that what mine is? Have I given birth to a malformed child?

On a whim I took a look at some old documents I’d saved from my old computer. Writings I’d done back in high school that weren’t exactly good, drawings, story concepts that really had no story. I was cruising through them for the sake of nostalgia when I happened upon something curious. I found my first completed draft of this book. I’d written it back in either 2012 or 2013. I’m not sure which. Back then it was a script, written as part of a class assignment for my screenwriting courses, and back then I thought it was as good a script as I’d ever written.

Now, the story was much better in its current state, but I wondered how much it had changed since then. I had forgotten a lot about my first draft. Perhaps it could be fun, and better yet, maybe I’d get some ideas from it. So I started reading.

And then I couldn’t stop laughing.

The script was about as big a mess as you could imagine. Too focused on visuals and not focused enough on character. What was the plot? It only bore the faintest resemblance to my book now. The plot was three boys from Earth named River, Hunter and Sebastian are transported to a magic world. Why? I don’t know. I never explained that. In order to return home they are aided by a warrior named Beretta and a shady wizard named Yorreb. They have not one but two villains to deal with. One is a Red Dragon who has claimed one of the boys as an item in his hoard, and he proceeds to chase them across this mystic land. Why? I don’t know. Wasn’t too clear on that. The second villain, a malevolent sorcerer who has possessed the body of Beretta’s fiancee lures the boys into a trap.

You see, this sorcerer is aware the boys are from Earth and wants them to build him the A-Bomb.

I’m not even kidding. This character knows of the existence of Earth and these strange super weapons, and hopes the three will know how to make one. They of course don’t, much to his annoyance. At the end, the Red Dragon shows up and saves the day. Why? I don’t know. I didn’t explain that very well. I thought my first draft of the book in prose fiction was a disaster (which it was), but this? This is the stuff of legend.

The story is nothing like that now, and thankfully so. Sebastian became an orc who runs a college. Hunter became an elven wizard who dabbled in the sex trade. Neither of the three came from Earth, and all took a back seat to the character of the Red Dragon, who eventually became the protagonist.

While writing my book, I sort of had to teach myself an entirely new art form. I had to learn about pacing, character development, not overdoing it on the action, how subtlety beat a big speech any day of the week. Because of that I often feel overwhelmed, knowing there is still so much more I have to learn. But reading this script, beautiful disaster it was, I was reminded just how far I’ve come these last four or five years.

I suppose I’m actually ahead of the game in knowing there’s a lot more to learn. But realizing once more where I started has been a major reassurance. My characters are much better with distinct personalities and clear motivations, my plot is not a jumbled mess but a nicely constructed naturally flowing narrative, and the emotional core of the story, the relationships these characters share, feel real to me. Key is if I can make it feel real to the reader.

I don’t know what I was thinking combining high fantasy with the atomic bomb, but I guess some good came out of it. Getting this reminder of where I started has made me wonder that maybe where I’m heading won’t be so bad after-all.

Six Chapters In, 13K Words Out

As the days wear in with my edits of my book, it seems my target of cutting 50k words out may not be so far out of reach. Over the last several weeks, I’ve been going through my novel, which I was always worried was too long. I’ve been trimming down prose and cutting out unnecessary blocks of dialogue and even entire scenes in order to streamline it, all with the goal of bringing it as close to 100k words as possible, the maximum length people tend to accept from first time writers.

I never thought I’d be able to actually reach that goal. Surely I could get it down to 120k, maybe even 110k, but going all the way down to 100 was not very likely.

It seems now that dream may not be too far out of reach. Today I finished edits on chapter 6 of this 18 chapter book. We’re about a third of the way done.

Since starting, I’ve been able to cut out some 13k words. If I maintain that average throughout, I’ll manage to excise an additional 26k words, bringing the total to down 113k. That alone is good news. I do wonder if I could go farther though. Maybe go all the way. Bring it down maybe not quite to 100k, but at least around 105k or something to that effect.

Whatever the case, the book is already looking much shorter, with only the absolute best left in it, which will make it a lot more attractive to any agents and publishers who come calling. 113k words is in sight, but I wonder if we can do better.

Meet and Greet: 6/2/17

Hello all. Been off WordPress for a while but I’m back, and I brought dragons.

Dream Big, Dream Often

 dreambigwallpaper-pinkombre

It’s the Meet and Greet weekend everyone!!  Strap on your party shoes and join the fun!  

Ok so here are the rules:

  1. Leave a link to your page or post in the comments of this post.
  2. Reblog this post.  It helps you, it helps me, it helps everyone!
  3. Edit your reblog post and add tags.
  4. Feel free to leave your link multiple times!  It is okay to update your link for more exposure every day if you want.  It is up to you!

  5. Share this post on social media.  Many of my non-blogger friends love that I put the Meet n Greet on Facebook and Twitter because they find new blogs to follow.

See ya on Monday!!

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Why The Silence? Message From The Author

Greetings to all of my few yet loyal WordPress followers. It has been a month since I sent the message that the book was finished and I was sending out query letters as well as starting other writing projects. Since then you all have been subject to a pretty deafening silence. What happened? Well I feel you’re owed an explanation.

Things have been pretty rough on a number of fronts. Feeling decidedly down in the dumps, suffering a bad case of writer’s block and money is getting tight enough that I may just move out of Los Angeles within the next year. This has been pretty upsetting for me not so much that I’m in love with the city and will miss it (there is plenty about LA that I cannot stand), but me honestly wondering if there’s any other place I can find the opportunities that are here.

Still, things on the writing front are moving forward. We did get an interested query for Never Heroes, though they said the book was too long and they’d be willing to see it if I resubmitted it and cut it down. I’m in the process of doing that right now, which will not only increase the odds of it getting picked up by this publisher, but also help other agents and publishers give it more thought.

So far we’re up to chapter 6 and I’ve cut out about 12,000 words, bringing us from 152,000 to around 140,000 words. I suspect we’ll be able to get down to about 120,000 words, even less if we’re lucky. But it’s fat and the story will be all the better without it. I also may end up re-writing my first two chapters. They are leftovers from earlier drafts and because of that I’ve always felt troubled about them. Everything after that by contrast? I’m pretty happy with it even if it could lose a few pounds.

As things settle down, I’ll try to check in here more regularly. Hopefully we’ll be getting some good news soon. Will probably be a while before the big day, but with a little luck it will come eventually.

Query Letter Adventures

Last week we began the adventure again. We have begun sending out query letters to search for an agent for Never Heroes.

I first sent out Query letters a little over a year and a half ago, around August of 2015. Back then the book had a different title, one that was pretty damn terrible. Zhyx: An Unusual Adventure. Would you read that? Because I wouldn’t.

I raked in some pretty impressive rejection letters before deciding maybe the book just wasn’t finished. After getting some good feedback (like how much the title sucked), we began a massive rewrite of the material that finally came to an end a few months ago.

Can’t believe it’s been this long. In previous posts I said my last queries were in 2016, and I honestly though this was the case. It seems more time had gone past than I thought, but I’ve become all the better a writer for it.

Last week we sent out a total of 9 queries. One responded and said they weren’t interested, and another requested my first 5 pages. We shall see where this goes. I know I’ve got at least two agent websites to go through, and that will take up much of my time over the next few months.

In the meantime, it feels good to be getting this out there once more.

Latest World-building Article

Been a while since I put up a world building article, but given the book is done and we’re getting ready to send out those queries, I figured having another go at a golden oldie would help prepare me to write the sequels.

My cousin Cullen, who has this amazing page you should totally read a lot, recently did some new renders on a sword for one of the characters for the book, the treacherous Sir Slight Fairborn, originally named Slight Owand before I realized that name was stupid. As usual, his work is impeccable, capturing the fine nature of this blade to perfection.

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I also thought it best to re-write some of the mythos surrounding Sir Slight and his family, given the previous article that has since been deleted made the entire family more or less unambiguously evil from the start. Such writing makes things more simple, but I’ve always been fond of more complicated stories. I thought maybe writing the family itself to be overall some pretty great people with only Slight being the bad apple would make the story more interesting.

I’ve included the world-building article in THIS LINK. Give it a read and feel free to comment.

Happy Alien Day, 2017. Here’s An Alien Poem

Well, we’re once again on the 26th of April, making this 4/26 of the year twenty ought 17. That makes this Alien Day, one of my favorite pop culture celebrating days of the year.

Yes, more than May the 4th.

The past few weeks have been exciting for me building up to this occasion. For one my MoviePilot page has been gaining increased traffic due to my, some would say excessive Alien themed posts. What can I say? I love Alien. I even had the privilege of getting one of my articles shared by Lance Henriksen, who portrayed Bishop in Aliens and Alien 3. That was pretty exciting.

The Alien has always been a creature that fascinated me. I always found the beast darkly beautiful, and wondered just what their civilization was like. This was aided in no small part by the games which allowed you to explore the world from the Alien’s perspective, something I always found fascinating.

I’d certainly never want to meet an Alien, especially not a facehugger. But this is a creature I continue to admire from afar.

To honor this occasion, I decided to write a poem from the Alien’s perspective. I hope you all enjoy it.

 

 

You fear the darkness, but to me it’s the light.

You kill without reason, yet I give your death purpose.

You cling to crude concepts, which to me are all worthless.

To you I’m a monster, but to me you are less.

Tom me you’re the air, and I draw you to breath.

Every breath that I take, to you is a nightmare.

Is a monster really all you can see?

Or do you know that I’m more, and is that what you fear?

You draw plans to cage me for something unknown.

When I’m not you’re monster, you think I’m your tool.

Beware though, fool, for no bars can hold me.

I’m not a monster to fear, but you should fear me.

It may not be the best poem, but it is one I’m proud of. Hope you all enjoy it. I’m also sharing a few articles I wrote for MoviePilot to celebrate the occasion, one a retrospective on Aliens, and one that goes into detail how the Alien is portrayed in the sequel. Hope you all enjoy them, feel free to share, and let’s all have an awesome, acid drenched day.

Raiders Of The Mini Arc

I find myself in the writer’s temple, and before me lies a series of booby traps. These traps won’t kill me, but they do have the power to kill my story if I don’t watch my words and steps. What is the trigger to this trap? The ever challenging character arc.

Yes, the character arc, that change that happens in every good lead of every great story. The growth they experience between pages and frames that puts them on an internal journey as well as an external one. Why the character arc is so powerful, Indiana Jones uses it to melt the faces off Nazis!

Okay, we’re not talking about that kind of arc, but this is still one of the most important aspects of writing.

Our novel Never Heroes is the first in a series of four books, which poses an interesting challenge in the way of the character arc. Developing a character over a series is tough because you can’t complete the arc on the first go around, but you still need to show your character transforming somehow. Yet you also can’t just do the same character arc over and over again or else the audience will just roll their eyes and groan.

“Seen it.” They’ll say.

And that’s the trap I find myself in. I plan for my lead to undergo some pretty profound changes in temperament and character, yet still want them to contain the same snide personality they have in the opening pages. Even by the closing of the first book, our hero has grown by quite a bit, but there’s a very long way for him to go before he’ll be willing to do what my planned ending calls for.

My challenge it seams is breaking down that transformation into specific beats and using each of the three sequels to focus on one change at a time.

It’s something I like to call the mini-arc, a series of small changes that on their own are distinct, but when you put them together you’ve got a character who is irrevocably changed.

Raiders-of-the-lost-ark-poster

Take my favorite series ever, the Indiana Jones movies. Each of the original three focus on one aspect of Indy’s character. The first one is about him rekindling an old flame and falling in love with Marion once more. The second one is when he sacrifices his own fortune and glory for the sake of those who need protecting. Last but not least, the third shows his strained relationship with his father and insinuates that is the reason he became a treasure hunter in the first place. Each are distinct stories that focus on the same character, yet each focus on a specific aspect not addressed in the other two.

And let’s just not talk about that fourth movie.

I’m in a similar situation with my lead. My hero has become…well…a hero by the end of book one, so what else does this entail? What does this new responsibility mean for him? What things will he need to abandon and what things will he pursue in their place? I’ll have to think a lot about before I start writing book two. The good news is I may have an answer for just what aspect of this change the second book will focus on. The third and fourth books however will still need a lot of work.

 

If I don’t put in that work, I’m not sure this story can outrun that giant boulder just itching to crush the next failed draft.