Cover Reveal: ‘Exile’, Part One of The Book of Ever

The cover for my forthcoming young adult novel Exile is out!   The Book of Ever trilogy, of which Exile is the first part, is young adult science fiction in a postapocalyptic setting.  Exile is due out this August.  Scroll down to see the blurb below.

Exile by James Cormier

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…

Playlists for Writing

Next to Starbucks and, you know, the ability to transform thoughts into written language, music is a writer’s best friend.  Now, I know what you’re thinking: there are different schools of thought on this subject (is there any subject where there aren’t?).  Some writers must have music playing while they write, some can only listen to a certain type of music, and some eschew music altogether.  I’ve gone through all of these phases myself.  But one thing I can say for certain is that music has informed all of my writing in one way or another, even if it was only as an inspiration outside of the writing process itself–i.e., listening to a symphony or a song and thinking up plot ideas or character arcs, etc.

It also seems to depend a great deal on what I’m writing.  For more serious, complex writing, I tend to either work in silence or listen only to ambient, instrumental music that creates atmosphere without being distracting.  This holds true the majority of the time, for me: I listen to a lot of ambient or downtempo electronic music (Aphex Twin, Tycho, Bonobo) or classical music (Bach, Mozart, Boccherini).

When I’m writing something fast-paced and plot-heavy, though, I do like to rev it up a little.  The manuscript I’ve just finished and am currently editing is a post-apocalyptic young adult novel, the first in a series, about a group of young people on a mission to save their community.  Their religion is a far-future take on Mormonism, and the perils they face are by and large fantastic and bloody.

My latest thing is making writing playlists on Spotify (shell out for premium; you’ll never spend too much on iTunes again).  I called the playlist for this book The Blessed, after the main characters’ name for their people.  I wanted a mixture of young, dramatic rock and traditional religious music; I’m quite pleased with the results.  The great thing, too, is that each playlist is a work in progress.  I’m always adding to and changing them.  Here’s The Blessed:

I almost always listen to playlists on shuffle, these days, so the song order isn’t important.  What are your musical habits when it comes to writing?

Editing a First Draft

My first substantial story/content edit of a first draft is the most important one I do when I’m writing.  I write more slowly than some; the first draft of the novel I just finished, for instance, a post-apocalyptic young adult sci-fi story, took me around five months to finish.  That’s an estimate, because I started writing it on a lark and ended up switching gears from my other project to finish this one, and as a result I wasn’t working on it full time right away.  So had I sat down to write that story alone, in other words, it might have taken less time.

My writing process is somewhat nontraditional: rather than blast through a truly rough first draft and polish it with multiple, successive edits, I tend to linger over the first draft, working on the prose and pacing and details more carefully than some.  This is just the way my mind works; I find it very hard, often distracting, even, to block out a story roughly, which is in direction contradiction to the way we’re all supposed to be writing.  What, after all, do most writing guides tell you?  Something along the lines of: don’t worry about your first draft!  Your first draft is supposed to be horrible!  Just get it on the page, and worry about making it good later!

This may work for some writers, and despite my sarcasm, I don’t actually see anything wrong with this technique.  It’s how many, if not most, artists work.  Oil painters paint in layers: first brushing on a background wash, then blocking out major shapes in differing values of neutral colors, then gradually adding layers of bright color, light, and shadow, before finishing with minor details and nuances.  Sculptors who work in stone must first carve out a rough shape before chiseling in the fine features of a statue.  I often find that by not working this way myself, I run a greater risk of being bogged down in details when I should be focusing on the bones of my story.

That said, I don’t regret my methods; they seem to be working for me.  I might even go so far as to say they’re more modern: sophisticated word processors like Microsoft Word allow us to make changes on the fly, whereas writers of yore were constrained by the limitations of typewriters.  Even pen and paper is more compatible with the traditional, phased method: the physical effort and comparative mess of writing freehand discourages too much ad hoc messing around.  It used to be much more efficient to write a rough draft, edit it longhand, type it up, then edit again…repeat, ad nauseam.  Today we’re able to truly play with each sentence as we write it, which is both a blessing and a curse.

It’s a blessing because we can take full advantage of being in the moment while writing: our fingers, if we’re decent typists, move more quickly on the keyboard than they do with a pen on paper, and can come much closer to keeping up with the story unfolding in our heads.  Moreover, it gives you the speed and efficiency with which to take advantage of a sudden, inspired turn of phrase–even if you think of a better way to say something five minutes after you’ve finished a scene, it’s the work of mere seconds to go back and edit it in Word.

This might all seem a bit remedial, but I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I edit this manuscript.  I do most of my editing on the computer screen, rather than on paper, which is also, traditionally, a no-no.  But I find, again, that it’s more efficient.  I can try different things more quickly, see if they work, and make changes to the text live rather than making chicken-scratches all over a paper manuscript only to have to go back later and actually make the changes.

The down side, I suppose, is the detriment to posterity.  Readers and writers of the future will have less access to physical copies of early drafts, which give insight into a writer’s process.  On the other hand, it’s certainly possible to track changes with Word, much more effectively than by hand, so the preservation of the digital file would solve this problem.  And it’s a minor one, anyway, isn’t it?  What matters, in the end, is the end.  The end product, that is.

Editing, even more than writing, is where you first find the methods that work best for you.  The initial process of writing, after all, is dead simple: put one word in front of another and repeat until you have a novel.  (Don’t let anyone tell you it’s more complicated than that, incidentally.)  But editing is much more like work; hard choices must be made, a pace set, discretion and judgment utilized and prioritized.  Editing is where the real work comes in, in other words, and doing it is the best way to learn how.