Just a quick reminder that the five-day free promotion on Amazon for Exile: Part 1 of The Book of Ever ends tonight at midnight, EST. That means you’ve got less than three hours left, folks!
A Twitter friend of mine, C.A. Guardiola, recently invited me to participate in an interview for an author spotlight on his blog, Write Away. His questions were very thoughtful and interesting, and it was a pleasure to talk with him.
So it’s time to spin the dial and let the arrow land on a fellow writer who toils ceaselessly for love of the craft: the author of YA, fantasy and pretty much anything that he finds interesting: James D. Cormier.
I met Jim on Twitter a few months ago and followed him into that hell of an alternate universe called Ello, where we are still slogging through the mud trying to convince ourselves that it’s Normandy on D-Day instead of wet sand in the see-saw area of the local park.
You can read the entire interview here.
You’ve only got through Sunday to download your free ebook, so don’t hold out! Get it while you can, and start an adventure story you’ll never forget!
Centuries after the Fall, the United States has been wiped away. The crumbling remains of the great American empire are home now only to savage, lawless tribes and packs of ravening Damned—the twisted children of the apocalypse. Most of those few who survived humanity’s destruction spend their short lives in a violent struggle for survival. But some light still flickers in the darkness: the Blessed of Bountiful live in seclusion, relying on walls both physical and spiritual to protect them from the Desolation that their world has become. Among them are the Saints, those few men and women born with superhuman abilities that the Blessed see as gifts from God.
The violent apostate tribes of the Northeast Kingdom have always been a danger, but up until recently its small size and the vigilance of its people have made Bountiful an unappealing target. As attacks on the community grow harsher and more frequent, however, even the steadfast Blessed are forced to start preparing for the worst.
With her home’s very existence threatened, seventeen year old Ever Oaks, a Saint with the power to heal, is forced to make a difficult choice, one that may come to define her people’s future…
I’ve been thinking about writing process a lot lately. Whenever I’m between large projects or still in a “soft” phase (see below), the process by which I write fiction becomes more present to me than it is when I’m writing one thing determinedly.
Victoria Schwab talked today about “cook time,” a concept which, as obvious as it seems, hadn’t occurred to me before in the context of writing a book, and which actually applies rather aptly to my own process:
I have what I call a long “cook time.” This means that once I get an idea, I let it simmer on the back burner for months, if not years. One of the reasons I do this is because I’m usually working on something else, but the larger reason is that I want to make sure it’s not just a random idea, but something worth pursuing. By the time I take it off the back burner, IF I do, I am fairly confident that it’s not only something I can write, but something I can FINISH. Once I took a project off the back burner, and it turned out it wasn’t quite ready, so I put it back, but once I’ve started to actually write, I’ve never quit a book.
This is almost me, with one exception: I often start writing things that I’m not able to finish right away, because the idea in question hasn’t had sufficient cook time. So I suppose I’m not as patient as Ms. Schwab, but the overall idea is the same: book ideas, by which I mean world-building, plot character, setting, etc., all percolate in the back of my mind for months and years before I even contemplate starting to write.
The false starts I sometimes have aren’t entirely useless, though. Often the act of sitting down and writing out the beginning of a story (it’s usually the beginning) acts as a sort of threshold test for the idea as a whole: can I write about this? Is this something that I could conceivably turn into a full story, or is this a passing whim, a throwaway idea, a piece of micro-fiction at best?
Talking about one’s writing process is usually only useful for the person doing the talking, since everyone’s process is different, but most of us interested in the craft nonetheless find it fascinating. With that in mind, here’s a few facts about my writing process, in bullet points, because for my purposes bullet points are more useful than a narrative:
- Contrary to what is apparently one of the most-asked questions at writers’ panels, coming up with ideas has never been a problem for me. I’ve got more ideas for books than you could shake a lightsaber at. It’s choosing between them that’s hard.
- The spark of an initial idea is hard to describe–it strikes you like a little electric shock, and you have to go write it down.
- I write all of my good ideas down, in the form they came to me, in one of my many notebooks. There’s a good argument to be made that “if it’s a good idea, you’ll remember it anyway,” but nonetheless I like jotting down some notes about the details when it comes to me.
- It’s from there that the “cooking” phase begins: the idea zooms around in my head like a pinball, dinging against other ideas, setting off lights and buzzers, combining with things, knocking things out of the way. Eventually, to mix metaphors, it begins to snowball, changing into a steadily growing kernel of a book.
- Cook time ranges from months to years for me. The Book of Ever, for instance, had a comparatively short cook time: I took book one, Exile, from concept to finished manuscript in about six months. On the other hand, I’ve been planning out an epic fantasy series in my head and in notebooks for years now, which still hasn’t fully taken shape.
- Usually, a project being on the back burner for me means that I’m stuck or blocked in some way–usually in the way of plot. I often begin things, then set them to simmer, and sometimes take them off the heat, so to speak, if I don’t know the way forward. Sometimes other things take priority simply because they’re further along and require more attention.
- Any time something’s cooking on the back burner, I think of it as being in a “soft phase”: I’m working on it, but not exclusively and perhaps not with full knowledge of its content or ending.
- On the other hand, once I know how to finish it, it enters the “hard phase”: I work on it exclusively until it’s done. No getting distracted with notes or writing on other work.
- Do to the amount of cook time, my writing projects tend to come out in something fairly close to their finished form on the first go; I don’t go through multiple “drafts” the way some authors do.
- That said, I consider myself a gardener, not an architect. “Knowing the way forward,” for me, means that I have a general skeleton of the story in mind: major events, character arcs, world-building. I don’t have a chapter-by-chapter outline, and things often change in the writing.
- Between the soft phase and the hard phase there’s usually a click. You’ll hear a lot of writers talk about this moment: that moment when everything crystallizes, when the constellation of ideas and plot points and character beats comes into alignment. The click.
- The click, whether it’s a big one or a little one, usually happens at the most inopportune time possible. Like when you’re having a serious conversation, or parallel parking.
- Once I start writing, I aim for 1,500 words per day. Ideally I write significantly more than that, but if I write 1,500 then I don’t feel that the day was wasted.
- I often edit as I write, which is another reason I don’t go through multiple drafts, and also explains why my output is sometimes on the lower side compared to more prolific authors.
- When I’ve finished the first draft, so to speak, I force myself to take at least a week off. Ideally it would be longer, but rarely do I have the patience to wait that long when I know a book is almost ready for publication.
- When I come back to it, I do one substantive read-through, often mostly aloud, looking for major editing issues related to plot, character, etc. I read on the screen, editing as needed as I read.
- After that I print it out, do a copyedit, and give it to beta-readers. Based on their feedback, I either change things or don’t, then do a final proofread and it’s off to the press. It’s a simple system, but I’m happy with it for the time being.
What’s your writing process like? What’s different, what’s similar? The great thing about this conversation is that there’s truly no right answer: everyone’s process is different. Don’t compare your writing process to that of another writer. (Except for the fun of it.)
Mark your calendars, boys and girls. Starting this coming Wednesday, November 19, 2014, through Sunday, November 23rd, Exile, Part 1 of The Book of Ever trilogy, will be free to download for Amazon Kindle.
If it’s been on your reading list and you haven’t gotten around to picking up a copy, now’s your chance.
Remember, you can read the first five chapters for free right here on this website.
I started a mailing list. You can sign up for it here, or via the link in the righthand column of this page. I promise not to email you more than twice a month (and will probably do so far more infrequently than that).
Why sign up for one more thing to clog your inbox, you ask? It’s simple. In addition to updates on my upcoming work, you’ll also gain access to exclusive content (preview chapters from the sequel to Exile, for example), giveaways, and more.
You know you want to sign up. Come on, just try it. Everyone’s doing it. You know you want to.
Sorry for the long absence, devoted readers. I’ve been busy doing a lot of editing in my role as an editor over at Evil Toad Press. Check out our website for updates on our upcoming titles.
In other news, I’ve been working on a few things simultaneously that I’m excited to share with you.
First and foremost, I’ve begun writing the first draft of the sequel to Exile, titled Extinction, which is part two of The Book of Ever trilogy. I’ve done a lot of outlining for this book, which is unusual for me, as I’m usually a Gardener, not an Architect, but Ever’s story gets more complex after the events of Exile and I needed to have some kind of road map to rely on. If you haven’t read Exile yet, you can download it for Kindle right now for the low, low price of $2.99. Act now! (Due to supply issues, we are unfortunately all out of complimentary steak knives.) I’ll keep you updated here as Extinction progresses.
Secondly, I’m working on a stand-alone sword and sorcery novel (or swordpunk, if you prefer) tentatively called The Trials of Karthanas, which is an expansion of the snippet called “The Akkian Mass” that you can read right here. I’ve been enjoying this one; it’s been much more of a freewriting experience. Rather than plan anything out too much, I’m deliberately letting the story take me where it wants to go. So far, it’s been an exciting process.
Third, I’m slowly but surely putting together a book of stories called Out of the City, Into the Sea. The stories will all be literary fiction (for lack of a better term), tending toward the magical realist end of that spectrum. The general theme is life in suburban New England; the characters are a group of people living north of Boston, at various stages of life. I’m proud of these stories, and I can’t wait to share them with you.
Stay tuned for more substantive updates and posts!