on Sunday, May 30, 2010
Week Dates: 5/24-5/30, 2010.
Total Word Count This Week (Paradise Seekers): 16,233.
Words Total for Paradise Seekers: 51,922


Excerpts from this week:

“Yeah, Zade told me about the book,” Julia swallowed, and I thought I saw some anxiousness creep across her face. “I...took a nap after he explained my assignment, a Gatherer because of my dream. I...I had the dream again. It was a little different, but it was for sure the same general idea. Marks, up and down my wrists, like tattoos.”
“Like tattoos?” I pushed, curious. “There’s a girl, Maria, back in Crimson House. She had the same dream, and I’m fairly certain many have had it before. Jen, our Keeper-”
“Yes, I met her,” Julia cut me off, still staring out the window, light on her face.
“Yeah,” I continued, “anyway, she said it’s a common dream. And everybody says the same thing: they are tattoos, sometimes with different marks.”
“I...guess,” was all Julia said. I blinked, looking at her worried face, and got the distinct impression she wasn’t telling me everything.
“Did something else happen?” I pushed further.
Julia blinked, then shrugged, and when she answered she didn’t look me in the eye. “Eh, it’s nothing, don’t worry about it. Anyway, good to see you, but why have you come? Are you going to sweep me away, be my knight in shining armor?”

- Paradise Seekers, Day Five - Lavender House

What I saw made me pause, my tongue a dry lump in my throat. There, on the ground, lay what appeared to be a dark Gatherer’s cloak. It was fluttering quietly in a heap, separating me from my precious dark doorway. I swallowed hard, trying my best to not scream, the tension eroding at my sanity like water through a canyon. Try as I might, I found it hard to tear my eyes from this cloak, this seemingly empty thing that was blocking me from my safety.
Still, none of the creatures surrounding me made any indication of moving. The cloak lay, a black mess on the ground, its darkness like a sunken hole between me and Lavender House’s entryway.
And then it started to crawl towards me.
Bone-white hands, like a human’s, stretched out from the sockets of the sleeves. They clawed the stone path, the horribly long nails scratching against the rock, dragging whatever thing was hiding within the depths of the cloak. Its movements started slow, but within seconds they were accelerating, those horrible hands heaving the black robed creature I could only assume was a Gatherer straight for me.

- Paradise Seekers, Day Six - Gatherers


Great week this week. I'll cut to the chase and give the averages: 2,319 a day. Most if it was actually the nights after CONduit, despite being exhausted I was pumped to write, and it made it all the better.

As stated, CONduit was this week, and I'll be posting my synopsis of Saturday soon. I didn't take as many notes this time around, but I really enjoyed it; I spent most of the time either at panels or talking with authors, which was very agreeable. We also spent all our money, and here are some of the books we got:

Servant of a Dark God - By John Brown, who is a very awesome guy. Signed, of course.

Mr. Monster by Dan Wells, the sequel to I Am Not a Serial Killer. Also signed, and technically this book isn't out in the states yet, so it's the British version.

Psychosphere and Vamphyri! - By Brian Lumley. He wasn't there or anything, but Elitist Book Reviews posted a review of the third book and said they were good, and we found these first two for super cheap at the used book section of the CON, so why not?

Monster Hunter International - By Larry Correia - Actually I didn't buy this one, but Jason and Derek did, and Jason lent me his copy because I tear through books.

So far, both Rebecca and I have already read Mr. Monster, so expect a review of it also shortly (blurb: it's great). I semi-started Monster Hunter International, but I'm probably going to read Servant of a Dark God first.

The CON made me realize one big thing: how neat groups of authors are. Everybody generally got along great with each other, joking and hanging out and carrying on. It seemed like a lot of fun and a great community, which only made me want to get published EVEN MORE. I was also inspired when John Brown mentioned Servant of a Dark God was the second book he ever finished, which gives me hope.

Another thing it made me realize is I need to keep submitting stuff to agents and editors, even if I think it sucks. WGMD is just a few revisions away from being sent, and Paradise Seekers will be finished soon as well (though it also needs some revising). Now that it's already June, I'm going to spend this time finishing Paradise Seekers, revising WGMD and having it workshopped by my writing groups, and send WGMD out to everybody who moves. That's the plan, anyway.

Speaking of Paradise Seekers, things with it have been going quite fantastic. As you can see, it crossed the 50k mark, something which took WGMD a lot longer than three weeks to accomplish. The book is technically in the third act now, which means it should be finished soon. I told myself if I finished the book (which has about 30k words left) during the long weekend, I'd give myself a treat. I think that might kill me.

A downer is my computer is currently out for repairs. Luckily I save everything I have to Dropbox, but unluckily I saved it in the Mac document format (.pages) instead of .doc. Microsoft, in their infinite wisdom, made it completely impossible to open .pages in any program on their OS (while every Mac can open both .doc and .docx straight out of the box. Even Windows Vista can't open .docx straight out of the box. Genius.). So, while I had the foresight to change Paradise Seekers to the right file format, I didn't for my documents containing notes, or any of my schoolwork. That is bad.

In either case, my computer will hopefully be repaired by Thursday at the earliest, then I can drive up to SLC and get it back, and I'll be back in the game. In the mean time, I'm using my wife's Windows 7 PC, which (as stated) isn't my ideal choice but it'll have to do for now.

My writing group also began the contest we had last summer: writing every day, no matter what. We dropped the previous word count requirement, making it so you only had to write SOMETHING in your novel (planning doesn't count) every day or else you lose the day. Also unlike last year, you can't "make up" words later (since we are counting days, not words), so if you miss you are just out of luck. Last year I won and got a copy of Well of Ascension, courtesy of the losers. I'd say that's pretty strong motivation to write!

Overall? Great week. I had fun, wrote plenty, learned a lot, and got some awesome books to read. Current goal: Finish Paradise Seekers this week. If so, I'll have completed an entire novel in just one month. Can I do it? Let's find out!

Happy writing!

CONduit: Friday Synopsis

on Friday, May 28, 2010
It's surprising how fast time flies when you are having a good time. CONduit in SLC this year so far has been fantastic. For those who don't know anything about CONduit, you might want to check out their web site for more information, suffice to say it's a writing conference mixed with bits of anime, tabletop and D&D games, and other "geek-dom" type activities.

While I enjoyed the majority of the presentations, I think the most I've gotten out of the Con so far are the brief moments talking with authors one-on-one (or two-on-two). The Con is a great place to speak with these people I didn't know anything about face to face (as well as some I do know by blog-stalking), and being able to network with these individuals is great. Tomorrow, during book signings, I plan on speaking rather extensively with as many of them as possible.

The panels I attended today were as follows: Writing Moods, How to Submit your Work for Publication, Cartography, Genocide, and A Writer's Life. I'll go over each with a brief summery for those who weren't able to attend or would like to know what I got from each.

Writing Moods
Panelists: Dan Wells, Ann Sharp, Elizabeth Watters, Barbara Hambly, Larry Correia.

Larry and Dan really made this panel, but the rest of the authors also did a fantastic job. This was certainly a great panel to start the Con with, and provided great information while still being entertaining. It also helped me get to know the awesome wackiness that is Larry Corria, and just based of him being an awesome guy, I now will probably buy his book tomorrow. Way to go!

Anyway, about the presentation, it was by majority about tense moods and how to best cause tensions without overwhelming a reader, or wimping out at the last moment. The first question was concerning humor and tension, which Larry and Wells handled. Larry pointed out that most people who have dangerous jobs, like gator wrestling or working construction on tall buildings, are often the funniest people you'll ever meet. People, when put in dangerous situations, often joke as a sort of way to make the fact their mortality is on the line seem less scary. Thus, having people joke a little during scary parts makes it seem natural. Dan also went on to say that, while humor is great to help loosen the tension, one needs to be careful to not loosen it too far. If a joke is too funny or too clever, the scariness of a scene is gone. Dan also pointed out that in his books, he makes sure he can make jokes about gruesomeness of scenes, but he never jokes about the villains. Joke about him, and he's no longer a threat.

They moved on to talk about how they get in the mood to be write these scenes, and how to pace them. Larry pointed out that he chooses music that fits the scene. Dan pointed out that to keep tension working, you have to build tension without releasing it, but you can often release small portions of tension to keep it from being unbearable. For example, small bits of problems can be resolved, but keeping the main one in the background keeps the tension, which keeps a reader reading. Personally, I consider the movie The Dark Knight to be an excellent example of this. The film is extremely tense almost throughout, but it isn't completely unrelenting because of the minor victories. This keeps someone from watching it without getting exhausted by being on the edge of their seat the entre time, but still keeps them close. Dan also pointed out that Rivendell in Lord of the Rings is a great example of breaking a bit of the tension while not providing complete comfort. They are given a small break, but the overal issue of the ring is still known.

The next topic was interesting: how do you make a character who is an apathetic character, without making them completely boring? I found that I Am Not a Serial Killer is a great example of this, because the characters has a social disorder that makes him uncaring, but he is still an extremely interesting character despite his apathy. Larry pointed out that, if it's a main character, internal dialogue is a must. If it is a secondary character, their apathy through actions can be interesting enough to pull them, especially the awkwardness. Dan also noted that, even if these people are apathetic, they will still have goals of some sort, so they aren't completely detached from everything going on.

The last thing they spoke on was how changing viewpoints influences tension. They noted that, in some instances, switching viewpoints can kill tension. A scene, built around one character and their struggles, can be killed if it is switched to somebody far away. However, this can also work to one's advantage. If the scene is so tense that the reader wants to know what will happen, they'll keep on reading it until they get back to that character. Another part of this was, if you change viewpoints during a cliffhanger scene, that new viewpoint better have a heck of a hook to keep the reader interested. If that new viewpoint is boring, readers will just get frustrated. A good compromise is to switch to a viewpoint that is related to the issue, but not necessarily actually at the scene yet, or is only indirectly influencing them.

Overall, as stated before, a very fun panel, and was very helpful.

How to Submit Your Work for Publication
With Larry Correia, Eric James Stone, Robert Defendi, Brad Torgersen, Dan Willis

This panel was mostly just talking about the format you wanted a manuscript to be in if you planned on sending it off to an editor or an agent. It was also very entertaining; everybody on the panel was very excited and loved to joke around. Since it wasn't really a formulated lecture, and more like a series of facts about getting published, I'm going to write the points as such below. Keep in mind these are just the key things that stood out.

- Submit in a way that your format is transparent to an editor. Don't make your page colors or font be distracting in any way. Don't do weird formatting, even with titles or chapter headings, because if they do buy your book, the editor will change it anyway. Make sure it's clean and followes the guidelines.

- Don't worry about people stealing your stuff. An agent or editor will make more money signing you on and publishing lots of your books than just stealing your one good idea.
- If you submit a manuscript to a lot of people, it can be helpful to write the place you are submitting to on your included SASE. That way, when you get it back, you can know for sure who rejected you and for what manuscript.
- Don't use staples. They were big on this. Use one inch margins, no matter what you hear.
-When you send chapters, send your first five. Don't just pick the five best from wherever in your book.
- Agents, if you can get one, are a huge help in nearly every way. Larry pointed out how he got shafted out of international sales because he didn't know what his contract meant, and having an agent would have fixed that.
- Once your manuscript is ready for publication, pay a professional editor a few hundred bucks to have them tear it to shreds. They pointed out these aren't editors in the phone book: you want actual editors who have edited books in your genre that got published. You'll have to network a little to find them, but once you are in you are in.
- Decide when you are going to allow yourself to have your agent tell you to rewrite your work.
- Develop your audience. Larry also talked a LOT about this when we talked to him one-on-one. For a breakthrough novel, the publisher probably won't do a lot of publicity for you. In the end, it's up to you to know who your audience is, and who to send it to. You need someone to follow you. Put your stuff, be it sample chapters or whole sample books, where people can get to them.
- Short stories are WAY easier to sell compared to novels, but they also require a completely different skill-set to write. If you can write both, try publishing a few short stories before going for novels. Having those on a list of credentials can be helpful.
- Submit to the top market first, and work your way down. Don't settle for local publishers: go big from the beginning. The worst that could happen would be a rejection letter.

With Issac Stewart, L.E. Modesitt, John Brown

John Brown showed up late, but overall the information was very helpful. I'm going to focus on key points again, like I did last time, because I'm liking that style. See, I'm discovery writing my blog now. Fantastic.

- Maps are very important, because they keep you from having inconsistencies in terms of distances travelled, locations of things, and more.
- The author always has the last say on where things are and how far apart they are, but the cartographer might work with the author on how to best put things together. The two will work together, and even in some instances the author will edit the book to best make things fit.
- Mountain ranges are always wider than you think (Modesitt was huge on this). They are VERY wide, like hundreds of miles wide. Keep that in mind.
- Rivers ALWAY go from mountains to oceans. If they don't, you need a good reason explaining otherwise.
- You don't need to draw a beautiful map on the first try, or before you write your book. Use something basic, something you can use as a reference as you write. Make sure to sketch it in pencil, so you can edit and change it if necessary.
- Looking at pictures of maps can help you understand how beaches, landmasses, etc. look.
- Cities need to have a water supply.

I then asked a question to both Modesitt and Brown about the order which they draw their map compared to their story. It was interesting to see the differences in their answers.

Modesitt - Always draws the map first. He usually does the basics to start, such as high and low spots, lakes, and mountains. Once he has the general land mass, he moves on to put the cities in it. However, if the cities' locations are key to the plot, he'll often put them in first. Geography plays a key part in the politics of the cities (ex if they are mud farmers or live in a desert), which relies heavily on a map. Before he even begins writing. Modesitt has a map.

Brown - He usually has a general idea, but doesn't start drawing this map until about half way through the book. For him, part of the fun is discovery writing maps and how everything fits into place. He knows the basic details, such as terrain or building locations, but he just hasn't put it to a map yet. He points out that, in his book, invaders come from the "south," which on his original map he never puts their location (the map cuts off before getting that far down). However, when Tor got the book, they wanted a map of what was down there, and he had no idea. He then had to figure that out, and how long the distance would be when travelled by boat so they'd make it in time for the book, etc.

A few more points:
- Keep in mind that names of things change, including cities. People from one culture might call a canyon by a different name than others. Also, Brown pointed out that a city or village changing its name could be great worldbuilding. Even if it is never visited, just mentioned, that alone could add interest to a world.
- Modesitt pointed out how much he hates cities with unpronounceable names. People won't name cities things nobody can say or read.
- On that vein, people often give nicknames, or shorten the names of their cities.

I enjoyed this presentation a lot more than I thought I would, to be honest. It was very entertaining and gave me a lot of ideas on world building. Considering Lacrymosa had a map from the start, Harbinger and Where Gods and Mortals Dance had none (and still don't), and I just drew one up for Paradise Seekers about a week ago, I can safely say that I'm probably a mix between the two gentlemen mentioned on the panel.

Genocide in SciFi
With Ann Chamberlin, Eric Swedin, L.E. Modesitt, Barbra Hambly

This, sadly, was probably the least interesting panel out of all of them. I know what you are thinking: With all these great authors, and the subject being freaking genocide, what could go wrong?

Well, the problem with this panel was of no fault of the authors, but actually the audience. One person in particular kept loudly hijacking the conversations, and by the end she'd probably said more than the rest of the panelists combined. Once she started, everybody in the audience started interrupting. The conversation then changed from writing to mainly political and moral implications of genocide, which boiled down to opinions which I honestly didn't care about. It was really too bad.

I still got a few good points, however.

- Hambly pointed out that "Genocide is a really good way to let your readers know that the villain means business."
- Modesitt then added to that that it also could show that your hero means business.
- Genocide isn't just a randomly decided murdering of a culture. It's often calculated, with a strong intent behind it.
- Personalizing genocide is an option to keep in mind. When massive amounts of people get killed, we often choose to desensitize ourselves to avoid it being painful. For example, if you read a plant was destroyed, would that be more devastating than the hero's beautiful, innocent daughter being kidnapped and killed? The planet might be full of innocent daughters, but because we were distanced, it didn't have an impact. Adding personalization to genocide can make it more impactful.
- On that vein, genocide could often be considered a plot device, and the civilization destroyed considered lower than characters, even subcharacters.

After that, it pretty much went into political and moral rambling. But hey, at least I got something out of it.

A Writer's Life
w/ John Brown, Brad Torgersen, Dan Willis, Julie Wright, Nathan Shumate

This was a fun panel. Pretty much, these authors (some older, some newer) talked about how they write, and how writing has influenced their lives. I really enjoyed it just to listen too, even though most everything was personal experiences and probably didn't lead to much note taking. But here are a few fun facts.

- Many writers (in fact, all of the panel except Julie Wright) also have day jobs. It takes a while for writing to fully support you, especially with a family.
- Not finding time to write is what kills most writers. You need to find time, and if you find time, you'll make it as an author.
- It is important you are trying to get published to tell a story, not just to make money. If you are doing it for the money, you should know the road is a long one.
- Every writer has rough spots. Everybody on the panel had a part during their published novel when they thought it was completely crap, and wanted to drop it entirely. If you don't hate your book at least once, you are probably doing something wrong, or are on prozac.
- In that vein, if it isn't your first novel and you really think it sucks, you can drop it. However, if you've never finished anything and you hate what you are writing, you aren't allowed to drop it. You need to prove to yourself you can finish something, and if you quit when it gets rough, you'll never finish anything.
- If you are considering quitting writing forever (if those rejection letters are getting to you), consider "Can I live without writing?" If the answer is no, keep trying. You can't quit now.
- Ignore the rejection letter. John Brown pointed out somebody who wallpapered their bathroom of their huge expensive house they bought after getting published with rejection letters. He also mentioned an author who had over 1,500 rejection letters over her career, and she sold finally her first novel for over a million dollars.
- No matter what you do, keep submitting, even if you think it sucks. Like writing is practice, so is submitting. You can get better at submitting, so keep doing it!
- Brown talked about an "exploratory draft," or basically just he had a cool idea, and he wrote about this cool idea until he ran out of it. It could be a short story, a book, anything. He just wrote something, based on this idea.
- Brown also said something quite funny, that made a lot of sense. He said your mind is like the "faith of the farmer." A farmer "throws crap on the ground, expecting something good to eventually come out." He said this is the same as an author's writing: keep writing crap, and soon you'll have something great.

I loved this panel. Brown's "Exploratory Draft" is exactly how I write. I wrote Where Gods and Mortals Dance because I thought the title was so interesting. I wrote Paradise Seekers because I thought the title "Paradise Seeker" was cool, and needed a book to put it in. I wrote Harbinger because I wanted to write a while west fantasy where blood is magic.

A few other tidbits we picked up from authors:
- The New York Times Bestseller list is rigged. It's based on small stores in New York's sales, not overall sales. Larry Corria pointed out that his book was legions above the best sellers on Amazon.com, but never actually made the list despite the ones that DID make it sold thousands of less copies. This bias is why Fantasy/Scifi hardly ever show up on the list (or YA novels), while more literary fiction does (it's what sells in New York). He also noted it's determined by weekly sale peaks, so even if you sold very well consistently, you still wouldn't make it on the list.
- Larry also talked a lot about online networking, and how much you had to sell to be considered good. He actually really liked that his money paid upfront was so small: it meant he met his goal fast, so the publisher wanted to publish him again, rather than having to shoot for something huge. He also said that most publishers look for at least 5,000 sales of a book in order to consider it successful.
- Self-published novels almost always sell around 300 copies. This is because that's about all the networking an unknown person can do on their own (immediate family, neighbors, friends, etc.)
- John Brown really thinks wolves are cool.
- Larry Correia really like guns.

That's about it! I'll have an update tomorrow on what I see. I might have to break it into two days; I'm sure it'll be long. I'm also dropping my poor computer off at the Apple store tomorrow, never to be seen again (or at least for a week or so), so my life is going to get a lot rougher. Oh well, the cost of getting a new screen and a disc drive that works, I suppose.

Great Con! Can't wait for tomorrow!

Beginning with the End in Mind

on Tuesday, May 25, 2010
I think one of my favorite things about writing is the fact that you can take people by surprise with a story. Whenever I begin a book, as stated before, I always have a final twist, reveal, or just generally interesting ending in mind. This is partially because I'm a dedicated discovery writer, but I also think it's because I have such a firm belief that endings are the most important part of any story.

Now, I don't think every ending needs to wrap up perfectly, or with a typical "happy ending." The ending of Where Gods and Mortals Dance doesn't offer an actual resolution, but rather it provides the characters with the means by which to fix their problem. I leave what happens in the minds of the readers, which I feel both shows a great amount of trust in the imagination of my audience, as well as the idea that, like real life, many issues are ones that require years to finally accomplish, if they are accomplished at all. The conflict in WGMD was such that it wasn't possible for it to be completely fixed at the end without feeling like a cop-out, a "happy for the sake of being a happy ending" ending. I think these endings, above all, are my favorite to write, though they might actually not be my favorite to read.

Beginning with the end in mind is also a fantastic motivation. Knowing I have something fantastic and mind-blowing to present is an excellent motivator, one that can help push me through slow or boring portions, knowing the payoff (for both me and my readers) will be well-worth it. It also give me a basic framework which I can build my story; because I have an ending, I know what needs to be foreshadowed and implied. This also makes the foreshadowing, something I admit to have problems with, an easier task to accomplish.

Just a random musing concerning work in Paradise Seekers. As we are a little bit into the second act, with the third one right around the corner, I'm finding it important to keep the point of the story in mind. The truth behind the Paradise Seekers, their dreams, Dissipation, and more is integral on both the hints leading to the ending and for readers to find the ultimate underlying meaning behind the book. The point of Paradise Seekers is to both tell an interesting story in a unique environment, and for those who wish to dig a little deeper, they'll find the hidden symbolism and analogies throughout. As I am now in the point where I have to put the right amount of hints and foreshadowing, if I didn't know what the overall point of the book was, I wouldn't be able to accomplish it.

All in all, beginning with the end in mind has been very helpful for me in all my books, and it is something I'm going to probably do throughout my writing career. If I start with the point of the novel, producing it is much easier, and (I feel) makes for a better ending (if I have it fresh on my mind throughout the entire writing process, I have that long to refine and perfect it).


on Sunday, May 23, 2010

Week Dates: 5/17-5/23, 2010.
Total Word Count This Week (Paradise Seekers): 13,588.
Words Total for Paradise Seekers: 35,691


Excerpts from this week.

She leaned over the table, and I could see the bags under her tired eyes, despite her smile. “Sam, congratulations. You are Crimson Home’s newest Rememberer.”
It was quiet again, with Richard and Maria looking at me inquisitively, trying to figure out what that meant. Even Annie sat up and looked at me, surprised.
“Rememberer?” I asked, after I felt the suspense had properly passed. “I haven’t heard anybody being called that before.”
“Me either, Desmond wondered, looking from me to Jen. “Care to elaborate, or do we just get the title?”
“Well, to quote the book, Sam’s job is to ‘Organize the books in First House.’ I guess this job was more common before; lots of obscure dreams were assigned to be ‘Rememberer.’”
“First House?” Annie spoke for the first time that morning. “What’s that?”
“Well,” Jen took another bite of the charred breakfast. “If all the books I read previously are correct, that was the original name for Old Home.”
Richard suddenly snorted. He’d been playing with his food for the past few minutes rather than eating it. “So we called it ‘First House’ back when it was the only one, and now we don’t use it it’s called ‘Old Home?’ Paradise Seekers are really an imaginative bunch.”

- Paradise Seekers, Day 4 - Rememberer

The next set of pictures were no longer places in Haven, but rather appeared to be the dreams. However, for some reason, they were grimmer than those in the Paradise Seekers book, printed in such a way that gave me chills. The Tattoo dream showed a writhing girl, her hands curled up painfully, her face looking away from her arms as the marks crawled up them. The Falling dream was self explanatory; a figure facing downward, but the Paradise Seeker in this image was covering her face, streams of tears coming from her eyes. The Swinging dream, as well, frightened me. The figure wasn’t facing away from the reader this time; he was staring straight out of the page. Both his hands were lifted above him, grabbing the rope above the tire tightly, his legs dangling.
God, these are creepy, I grimaced. I was about to shut the book, when the last picture made me stop. It was faded, far worse than the rest, but I could still make out key parts. This picture seemed to have two parts. The first showed a screaming figure; due to the fading I couldn’t see exactly what he was doing, or even if it was a “he” or a “she.” They were raking their hands through their hair in anguish, and behind them appeared to be a shadow of one of the previous dreams. It must have been the Wrist dream, as I now recognized the writhing figure in the foreground as the same character from the previous picture.

-Paradise Seekers, Day 4 - How It All Ends


Slow week, unfortunately. I had two major tests and a 5 page paper due, as well as regular school business, so I unfortunately was both pressed for time and stressed, and when I'm stressed I prefer the Xbox over writing. Which is ironic, after that blog post about how I write so much.

I averaged 1,941 words a day this week, which isn't terrible; 2,000 is my most basic goal, and that was nearly met. It's a far cry from 3,000, probably because I'm entering a portion of the book I'm not entirely familiar with, so I have to slow down and take walks to clear my mind in order to continue.

Which, I forgot to mention, is Nathan's Ultimate Writing Secret (tm). Whenever I get stuck, rather than stew on it, I go for a walk. The length of the walk is based on how long it takes me; if I get out there and a block later I know what to do, I head back. If it takes longer, I have gone on 30-45 minute walks (most of these happened at the end of WGMD). I didn't go on many walks this week, minus to and from school, mostly because I couldn't feel justified spending that time when I should have been studying or writing.

That aside, I'm excited for this week. Thursday might be a problem; I have a bunch of mission friends over and they clog up time. I'm also getting a bunch of cavities filled on Writing Tuesday, which might cut back on it a little but I'm hoping not.

This Sunday is CONduit! Hooray! Original Flavor Writing Group and I might be spending the night up at a relative's house on Friday, going all day Saturday, and probably parts of Sunday if we are up to it. Goal is simple: get an editor to request my book. However, I'm flexible, so if I just get a lot of good networking in I'll take it too.

Expect more next week! Goal is to get 20k over the course of the week, which means I need to hit my 3k daily goal pretty hard. Paradise Seekers is now about ~40% done, which is good, because I'm ready to finish it up and work on Effulgent Corruption and editing WGMD.

I'm also planning book reviews of Storm Front and Fool Moon (first two Dresden Files books) this week. If anybody knows where I can get the third one not for money, that would be great, as I'm hooked and it is killing me that the libraries all have it checked out forever.

Have a great week!

BOOK REVIEW - The Maximum Ride Trilogy by James Patterson

on Saturday, May 22, 2010

By James Patterson (Official Website)
Buy the Books Here: The Angel Experiment, School's Out - Forever, Saving the World


James Patterson’s Maximum Ride Trilogy is a great example of an intriguing story failing completely in the third act. While the first two books, The Angel Experiment and School’s Out - Forever lead up to a promising conclusion, the third and final book of the series, Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports doesn’t fulfill reader expectations and, to be honest, felt like a lame cop-out.

Since this is a trilogy, I’ll review each book individually. I read The Angel Experiment just before School’s Out was released, so I read the first and second books in close succession. The third was released shortly after (following Patterson’s “Write a book every four months” craziness), so I was able to get the whole trilogy down rather fast.

I also read them at the same time I was writing my first novel, Lacrymosa, which also was featuring winged people. A big coincidence, but one that I might as well point out, if only because it’s my blog and I think it’s interesting.
James Patterson is more commonly known as a mystery/thriller writer, famous for his Alex Cross character. Having read about six or seven of these after finishing Maximum Ride, I can say that Patterson does know how to build suspense, though it is best to read his books in small doses. This is because each of them follows a similar routine as the previous, so if you’ve read one you’ve essentially read them all. There is an attempt at an overall, underlying story with Cross during these cases, similar to what Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files does, but Butcher’s series does a much better job at this sub-story (which becomes the main story) than Patterson’s. Frankly, Patterson is at his best when he write one, self-contained book, rather than trying to stretch the plot twists and mystery across several novels. This, in and of itself, might explain why the ending of the Maximum Ride trilogy seemed so half-baked.

Review: Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment (Book 1)

The Angel Experiment is quite a good read, despite all the criticisms I’ve leveled for the series above. It follows the viewpoint of Max, who, based on her voice and actions in the novel, I didn’t know was female until about a quarter of the way through the book. Patterson has had similar problems in other series I’ve dug up, though the main character’s names have often tipped me off before their actions are.

The story starts with Max, living in a hideout with the rest of her “flock,” a group of kids genetically modified with the gift of flight. They are an interesting assortment: Fang, the emo love interest of Max; Iggy, sarcastic and blind; Gasman, nicknamed Gazzy, who provides comic relief and is also the only one of the flock with a sibling (Angel); Nudge, who I think is African-American, though Patterson never says it straight out; and Angel, the one with the most unimaginative name, who is the youngest and, of course, an “angel” of a child. If you are getting a sort of “The Boxcar Children” vibe, you wouldn’t be far off; reading it reminded me a lot of that classic series.

Of course, just them hanging around would make for a boring story, so right off the bat the Flock is attacked by Erasers, a group of werewolves (essentially), created by the School to destroy them. The School is where the Flock was “born” and raised, only to later escape with the help of the father figure, Jeb, who they believe is dead.

It only gets more convoluted. Jeb actually isn’t dead, one of the Erasers (named Ari) is Jeb’s son, and Jeb is maybe evil. Or is he? Plus, Max has some chip in her arm that she can’t remove, that we are lead to believe the Erasers use to trace her. Also, it seems to be the cause of a “Voice” that keeps telling them what to do.
As stated before, I enjoyed the first book, if only because the premise was interesting, the book is breakneck fast, and it opens up a lot of interesting questions. Questions that, unfortunately, are never really answered, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Patterson’s prose is simple, and believable that a 15-year-old girl would talk that way, minus the gender confusion. This is partially what contributes to the book’s fast pace; Max and the Flock are always doing something, with conflict starting within the first ten pages.
While not too exhausting for one book, the consistently shifting conflict, loyalties, and just general mass confusion really begins to add up. It works in the first book because it is short and I never feel cheated: I have promises of answers later. Which works, or would have, if Patterson had actually had some sort of overarching plan for the trilogy.

Review: Maximum Ride: School’s Out - Forever (Book 2)

Surprisingly enough, as a sophomore novel in a trilogy, School’s Out work exceptionally good. It keeps the action going, while mixing developments with the characters, as well as Max and Fang’s relationship. However, the problem with the novel is for every step the characters take forward, both plot and character development-wise, they take two steps backward in another area.

Right off the bat, you discover the Erasers can fly now (because that makes perfect sense), and a character who Max killed at the end of the first book, which looks like it will be a strong emotional conflict for her, magically lives again. It’s almost as if Patterson read his first book, realized he messed some stuff up in the final draft, and just decided to do whatever the hell he wanted to fix it.

Well, you are the author, so I’ll just deal with it. But that doesn’t mean I’ll like it.

Despite these oddities, I still think the second book is better than the first, if only because the situations they are put into are more clever than the first one. The first was a simple, “Run away from the bad guys” story. This one is as well, but it slows down a bit, allowing the Flock to be put into quite an entertaining situation: they are enrolled in a real school. One of the best things about this trilogy is you really grow connected to the characters: none feel similar to each other, and each is unique and interesting. So, as they are put into weird situations, you can't help but smile as they have difficulty managing, or are delightfully out of place in real-world places. This is, easily, one of the strongest points of the trilogy.

Now might be a good time to point out that the adults in this book are, frankly, pretty stupid. That, or completely clever geniuses. People help the kids, knowing they have wings or not, all the time. As kind as I’d like to believe humans are, this just isn’t believable. Of course, Patterson manages to cheat out of this, essentially by saying “ANYBODY could be working for the (bad) School, so that answers that question. Now keep reading.”
And on that note, we learn a little bit more about the Erasers, the School, Jeb, and the Flock’s past. It’s a pretty common theme through trilogies that readers love to have questions last through all the books, only to be fed hints in bite-sized chunks, waiting for the fantastic final reveal. The first two books in Maximum Ride do this wonderfully: lots of loose ends, tons of questions to be answered, and they all seem to be tied together, so readers will spend lots of time considering exactly what is going on. The third book was set up to be a brilliant finale, with mind-blowing revelations and a stunning conclusion.

Too bad it falls flat on its face.

Review: Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports (Book 3)

This book is what made me realize that Patterson is best when he just does what he’s always done: write self-contained books, with the same characters. He just isn’t that good at trying to carry an overlying plot through multiple books. This couldn’t be more evident in Saving the World, where everything degenerates into either an info-dump or nonsensical plot twists that come completely out of left field, including one that literally made me put the book down and physically shake my head.

This book focuses more on Max, and the fact that she is “chosen” to save the world, though she had no idea how to. The general idea is they’ve got to take down the School (now known as the Itex corporation) and the Director. The Director's plot would make a comic-book villain cringe: they want to kill half the population of the earth. Their reasoning? Well, it makes no sense, so I’m not even going to try bothering to explain it. It is foreshadowed, unlike most of the rest of this atrocious ending book, but that doesn’t make it any less dumb.

So Fang, being the genius he is, decides that rather than have Max save the world he’d rather settle down with her and see what happens. He also starts blogging more (I believe he starts in the previous book), which plays an integral part in the climax of the novel. Anyway, the Flock splits because Fang wants to see half the people in the world die, and Patterson thinks logical people will do these things for sake of an interesting plot.

Then comes what I consider to be the most infuriating part of the book. Note this is a potential spoiler warning, though I’ll do my best to remain vague. Max and co. are captured, and at that point it is then revealed that one of the Flock was a traitor the entire time. This makes sense, because Patterson dropped tons of hints in the past two book that somebody was up to no good, and the shocker is who it is. At this point, I thought Patterson was brilliant, because who the traitor was made sense. I found myself thinking back on the previous two books, figuring out exactly how this worked, all the while amazed at Patterson’s complete genius. It made perfect sense, it was super clever, and completely shocking. A perfect twist.

Until the traitor essentially says “Just kidding,” within the next twenty or so pages.

No, I’m not joking, though I wish I was. Patterson essentially just undid all the greatness that could have been this trilogy, simply for a two-second thrill. A clever twist, a startling reveal...gone.

But wait, didn't they foreshadow a traitor? So who is that, then? Patterson ends up filing with all the other loose ends, including this one, by having a bad guy character say, “Well, sometimes bad people lie.”

So all that build up, all those potential huge reveals? Well, if Patterson forgot to reveal it, he conveniently gave himself an out: file it under “bad people lie.” This is how Patterson plans finales to trilogies. Magnificent.

Well, by that point, I was so frustrated with the whole ordeal I wanted to quit reading, but I just had to know how they take down the School, because that was the point of this whole series. I’m going to spoil it for you, so if you don’t want to ruin the ending, don’t read any further. Though you honestly aren’t spoiling much.

Remember that blog Fang started a while back? Well, apparently he has become more famous than the Numa Numa guy, because billions of people decide to listen to him and friend him. None of the people at the School, these genetic manipulating geniuses planning to take over the earth, realize they could probably track Fang's IP address and find him. But I’m digressing. There’s the final showdown at the School, and Fang unleashes the power of his internet friends list, in the form of a bunch of kids essentially raiding the building and overthrowing the evil corporation because he send them all a message telling them to do so through Facebook.

Or maybe he just promised to fertilize their crops in Farmville. I'm going to go with that.

Go kid power, I suppose? Patterson certainly knows how to spoon-feed his audience what they want to hear (a bunch of teens, using the internet, can show those rule-setting adults who is boss!), but it makes for an absurd, and mind-numbingly stupid ending. Kids from the internet all met together and destroyed a huge corporation. Just run that around in your brain a few times and see how it feels. Now imagine that being the stunning conclusion to a three book series you've been anxiously following for some time.

Not to mention the final reveal (who Max’s parents are) is just as heartwarmingly dumb as the internet destroying the bad guys.

Final Words

Honestly, it is hard for me to recommend starting a series that ends so poorly. The first two books were fun, light reads that you could pound out in an hour or so each. The third, however, is a terrible train-wreck of a novel that really needed to be outlined before Patterson put fingers to keyboard.

It is important to note that these books have sold millions of copies, and a movie series is currently being made. Also, there are three more books past these (which is a new trilogy, with a different bad guy and what-not), but I was so disgusted with Saving the World I couldn’t get anywhere in these.

Overall, if you plan on writing fast paced, middle-grade/YA, it might be worth looking at, if only to see how well Patterson paces his books, as well as giving a reasonably valid 15-year-old’s viewpoint. If you want to see a more “modern” look at The Boxcar Children books, you might want to read the first book and see how Patterson does a good job pulling this off. However, if you are expecting solid writing, or a coherent story, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

And for the sake of this blogger, please don’t read the third book. Don’t buy it. Don’t encourage this sort of story-destruction.

BOOK REVIEW - The Face in the Frost by John Bellairs

on Thursday, May 20, 2010

By John Bellairs (Official Webpage)
Buy the book here: The Face in the Frost


It is difficult for me to review The Face in the Frost. The reason being that, for me, this book was what defined fantasy for me, and was the book that really got me into the fantasy genre. I'd certainly dabbled with fantasy before, mostly with children's books, specifically the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. However, The Face in the Frost was the first adult fantasy book I ever read, and after enjoying it, I later moved on to more fantasy, including Tolkien's The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I use the term "read" loosely as I actually didn't physically read the book until about six or seven years ago. I actually first experienced The Face in the Frost on an unabridged audiobook put out by Recorded Books (probably one of the finest audiobook companies I've used). The book was (erroneously) shelved in the children's audio books, and the cover had a picture of a wizard on it. This interested me (as did the fact it was only four cassettes), so I checked it out, and listened to the entire four-five hour recording in a single night.

The reason why it was so hard to find a hard copy of the novel was the fact that it was written in the 1970s, and was taken out of print shortly after. The novel was recently re-published with a new cover in 2006, though it seems to have gone out of print again, making copies hard to come by. Bellairs actually isn't well known for his fantasy; he was primarily a children's horror writer (which is probably why they filed the audiobook in the children's section). With all due respect to Dan Wells, I must confess I have found Bellairs to be one of the finest writers of horror for young people I've ever read. His books were creepy and terrifying, while never resorting to nearly any form of violence or bloodshed.

But I digress; this isn't a review of his other books, it is a review of The Face in the Frost. The novel centers around two wizards, aptly named Prospero and Roger Bacon (it even says in the first sentence, "and not the one you're thinking of, either."). Both are older, and not very good wizards, a fact they are fully aware of. To quote the book,

"Though they couldn't make the moon eclipse, they could do some very striking lightning effects and make it look as though it might rain if you waited long enough." (1)

The two are old friends, and after Prospero's house is attacked by unknown objects, they embark on an adventure to stop a power, one they know full well they cannot possibly counter. Despite this, still they go, meeting the most oddball of people and encountering experiences that are genuinely terrifying, all the way down to the final showdown.

What makes this book a true gem among fantasy, is the fact that Bellairs is such a vivid writer. Every word he puts to paper seems to have a place, and his descriptions create a world that is believable and authentic, even if the underlying details maybe vague. While Prospero, Roger Bacon, and even the main antagonist's magic is never fully explained (if at all), we still have a clear understanding of the rules they are bound by, and how the world works. For example, in one of my favorite parts of the book, the pair meet an old friend: a king who lives alone in a tall tower. The king, named Gorm, is "a magician, but an introspective one, a model-railroad hobbyiest." This is evident by the fact that all of Gorm's magic is used to create a living, breathing galaxy in his tower, one he plays and tinkers with all day long. Clever little things like this really make the book shine, and it is full of more memorable moments in just a few chapters than few book series can even dream of accomplishing.

As an example, here is a quote describing Prospero's "improbable" home:

"Inside the house were such things as trouble antique dealers' dreams: a brass St. Bernard with a clock in its side and a red tongue that went in and out with the ticks as the tail wagged; a five-foot iron statue of a tastefully draped lady playing a violin (the statue was labeled "Inspiration");...a cherrywood bedstead with a bassoon carved into one of the fat headposts, so that it could be played as you lay in bed and meditated; and much more junk; and deep closets crammed with things that frightened the wits out of the wizard [Prospero] as he poked around looking for jars of mandrake root or dwarf hair in aspic. ... On a shelf over the experiment table was the inevitable skull, which the wizard put there to remind him of death, though it usually reminded him that he needed to go to the dentist." (6)

To put it simply: this book is just plain fun, but with a few asides. Much of the humor is derived from the oddball descriptions of the world, but the banter between Prospero and Roger Bacon is equally amusing and charming in nearly every instance. On top of this, there are several genuinely terrifying scenes, where the book does an amazing job balancing humor, horror, and general fantasy into a perfect blend. Bellair's prose shines through always; while he might not have the largest vocabulary, he is so incredibly clever with his word choices it hard to fault him on any sentence in the novel.

Perhaps the only problem I found with the book is the ending. I have mentioned before that I consider the endings to be one of the most, if not the most important part of a book, and unfortunately The Face in the Frost's ending is a bit too "deus ex machina" for my tastes. The scenes leading up to and encompassing the climax of the book are well written and quite terrifying, but the way the final conflict is resolved will certainly leave some readers with both feelings of bewilderment and the notion they've been cheated out of a better ending.

Despite that flaw, I openly recommend this book to anyone who both wishes to write fantasy, read fantasy, or just generally likes a clever read that is too much fun to pass up. The Face in the Frost is perhaps my most favorite work of fiction, and considering the novel is quite short, could probably be read in just a few hours. Highly recommended.

Note: As mentioned before, the book appears to be out of print again. However, from the link above you can purchase the hardcover from Amazon sellers, but if you have a Kindle there's a better option: a cheap Kindle version of the book is also available.

Ramblings on Writing - Drawing Inspiration

Ramblings on Writing - May 20, 2010

Drawing Inspiration

The inspiration for this week’s Ramblings is due to a variety of reasons. First is because I spent a good portion of this week brainstorming rather than writing (despite my enormous post about my word-count goals), mostly the cause of having multiple college examinations landing on the same week. The second is a certain person has been drawing comparisons between Paradise Seekers and Dashner’s The Maze Runner, and rather then do a post explaining why they are different, I felt taking a more general approach the to topic of inspiration would be helpful.

Something similar to this has actually been a popular topic on the podcast Writing Excuses. In fact, I believe it has come up twice, if not three times before. How do you manage your influences, and how are you certain you don’t just blatantly steal every good idea you run into? It can be hard, certainly, especially when you see a cool movie or read a good book, and you just really want your book to be that amazing. But how do you make sure your imitation or inspiration isn’t just a blatant ripoff?

I think a key part is to be an active reader/watcher. What do I mean by this? I mean gauge your emotions, your thoughts, and your ideas as you read. If you hit an emotional scene, try and figure out why it’s emotional. If you find yourself thinking hard about something neat that you saw in a movie, try and figure out why you think it is neat or exciting. Once you come to this source, you’ll be able to modify it to better fit your liking, and you won’t be blatantly stealing it anymore.

Often when I, and other people read, we discover cool ideas and concepts on the paper, and in our minds we automatically expand on them. For example, one of the main appeal of the Harry Potter series for me was the setting. In my mind, when I wasn’t reading, I was often considering situations Harry and co. would be put into, often ones I thought were much “cooler” than the ones found in the book. I was automatically expanding on Rowling’s ideas, making them to best fit my needs.

Another good example, for me, is actually an odd one. Years ago, in the PC video game Warcraft III, there as a custom map where some clever mapmakers had made a variety of custom heroes. One of them was called a “blood mage,” and in the basic sense of the game, he stole life (“blood”) from his enemies, and then used his own life to cast the spells. While this is a clever game mechanic, I immediately thought this would be a neat idea to twist and put into a novel. After much changing, this idea turned into the Seraphim in my novel Harbinger. In Harbinger, the main character (named Harbinger) is a being who cannot live without the blood of others. In order to survive, he must kill people, draining their blood directly into his own body. Over time, the blood in his veins will freeze, making him have to harvest again. The twist is, with that same blood, Harbinger could use a power called Stampede, a magic that allows him to heal, jump higher, see beyond things, and more. All this is set in a Wild West setting, far from the fantasy roots of the Warcraft III video game. Was the idea of a “blood mage” originally mine? No, but due to changes both in character, magic, and the setting itself, I was able to turn it into something that was unique to my novel. It didn’t stop my writing group from calling them “Cowboy Vampire Angels,” but it still was something unique one hasn’t seen before.

On the subject of “Cowboy Vampire Angels,” that’s another trick one can do: When you find something they really like, combine it with something else you also like. This one can be trickier, and you still have to be careful that the end result isn’t a complete ripoff, but even if the basic components aren’t original, the end result is. Cowboys, angels, and vampires on their own are all cliches. But by combining them, I created something entirely new. A side note for this, however, is that combining “elves” with anything usually doesn’t work. Trust me, if it is rooted in Tolkien or D&D, odds are it’s going to take a LOT of mixing in order for it to appear original.

But I haven’t really addressed the main issue, which is that, after you read Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, you too wanted to write a novel about people who eat and burn metals for powers, and can fly around and throw coins at people. You know that you can’t just steal, so you started writing something anyway, and guess what? Bits of Mistborn are sneaking in unbidden. How can you distance yourself from these awesome ideas you discovered?

I’ve noticed this issue tends to happen more when I discovery write rather than outline. So, if you are like me and are discovery writing, and suddenly you are writing Mistborn 4, a good idea is to actually plan. Not a lot, if you are afraid of planning, but enough that you know the distinct differences between your book and the one that seems to be guiding your influence. Pinpoint key differences, and how you plan on making sure these differences are detailed. If parts of the plot seem too similar, change them. I often have a “3-point rule” for things like this. If I can find three things in a scene, or in a magic system, or in a world that seems like a complete, 100% ripoff of something I’ve read recently, I must change it somehow.

Which brings us back to Paradise Seekers, and how, at first glance, one might see influences from The Maze Runner. First off, I hadn’t even heard of The Maze Runner before I began planning parts of Paradise Seekers, but that isn’t the point. I began writing the book after reading Dashner’s, so it is certainly possible influence is creeping in. However, it passed my “3-point rule” in nearly every aspect. Both books begin with viewpoint character having a loss of memory. Dashner’s novel starts with him in a metal box, being lifted up into the dirty, messy home of the Glade. Paradise Seekers starts with Sam waking up from a dream in a bed, in a near-utopian society. Similar? Perhaps. But not enough for those having read both to set down the book and say, “Wow, Major’s a huge ripoff.”

My last point is actually going back to my first one, which is being an active reader. Often times when I read great fiction, I find myself enjoying ideas or themes in books, and wondering: what would happen if they were taken in a completely different direction? What if the immortals in this story were considered gods, rather than just normal people? What if all the gods in a world had died? What if the Wild West was being controlled by malicious divine beings? What if, rather than having a clear black and white fantasy setup, the line were blurry? What if the Orcs were the good guys?

Expand on these ideas. Create your own worlds for these themes to blossom. Design characters that can interact and explain how they feel about them. Write a unique story that incorporates them all together.

Congratulations, you’ve written a completely unique novel, and not plagiarized that Dragonlance book you read when you were twelve.

A few more examples of thing I see, that later inspire me to write something completely different.

- Seeing a cool sword in a movie or video game, and wanting to write a story about that sword.
- Hearing a song with words or phrases that just sound good or unique together, and then forming a story around them ("Paradise Seekers" is actually part of a line from a Nightwish song)
- Reading about a society were magic made you elite over an enslaved non-magic population, then wondering what would happen if that were completely reversed. The magic users would be slaves, with the non-magic users their masters.
- Wondering why using magic to throw fireballs out of your hand doesn't burn the user's hand. Couldn't a world where people have black, charred hands mean that the magic users would be easier to pinpoint out?
- How about a system were magic gradually kills you? In most, magic is used to keep people alive and save them. What if it did the opposite, slowly crawling over your body, corrupting you...(hint hint as to what future book this is referring to)
- Reading happy endings, and wondering what a "realistic" ending would be like. Writing both endings! See which you like better!
- Seeing a villain die in a cool way, and wanting my main bad-guy (or good guy!) to die in a similar way.

Next Week's Topic: Character Death. Discussion will included how and why it should happen, and how to make it meaningful and not out of the blue.

Daily Word-Count Quotas, or How I Write so Much

on Monday, May 17, 2010
Per requests of multiple people, I've decided to write a post about how I write however many words a day/week that I do. It's a hard thing to expound on, because I really am not sure as to I got to this point. So, it might actually be helpful for me to talk about how I prepare to write, what I do while writing, and what lead me to this point.

First off, before the blog software decided to nuke my post, I made most of these key points on my now gone Ramblings on Writing about word-count goals. To paraphrase the entire deleted mess, if one make certain to set a goal to write every day, no matter what, and that they cannot go to sleep until they write 'X' number of words, then writing becomes easier.

For me, this was in the form of a "breakthrough" at one point, when I realized I could, essentially, write as long as I wanted and for as many words as I needed, until my brain burnt out (which, I've found, suffers complete meltdown at about 11,000 words, which was what I wrote in one day when I finished Where Gods and Mortals Dance). Last summer, I forced myself to write 500 words a day (then upped it to 1,000 weekdays, 2,000 weekends). I was working full time, but when I got home at night I wasn't allowed to read, play video games, or even sleep until I met the word count. At first, it was hard (but at first I started with just 500). Once I found I could force out 500 words a day, no matter what, I had a "breakthrough," as said above. It was then I realized that, so long as I had a general idea of what was going to happen, I could just keep writing a scene until it reached its conclusion. This was no matter how many words it required.

So, what goes on when I write? Well, first off, I am a very hardcore discovery writer. However, I'm a discovery writer with a few footnotes. Something I've always done before beginning writing is I plan the ending. Usually the ending involves some twist, often to do with the one or two characters I've developed (or the world). Usually it's only in generals; I don't have the exact details of how this twist or ending will work, but I do know what message I want to convey with it. This is consistent over every novel I have written. There are two reasons for this. First is because I think endings are one of the most important part of a story, because it's what the reader takes with them after they finish. So, in that regard, I want an ending that will be memorable. Secondly, since I am so bound to discovery writing, one of the major weaknesses of the writing style is that the novel often falls to pieces before the end. By making sure that ending is already planned, and I have that goal in mind throughout, I can avoid falling off track as I discovery write the rest of the novel.

The other key thing I often do while brainstorming is figure out basic characters, and also plan important scenes I feel will be cool. I have never written an outline, the exception being Paradise Seekers, but even then I haven't looked at the thing since I actually wrote it down. I often simply plan the beginning, the end, and key events I want to happen throughout the books. How the characters get to those points, and how they interact, usually ends up falling on their own shoulders. This week's Writing Excuses actually is about Discovery Writing, and an interesting point Brandon states is about how he (as an outliner) hardly ever lets his characters just "do their thing." For me, that is completely unbelievable. All my writing has been focused on the organic, living and breathing reactions between the characters. If I planned out their interactions, I'd feel like I was programming robots rather than writing people.

Back on subject, when I sit down, that is usually all I have: A beginning, and end, a basic setting, maybe one or two characters, and some scenes I have in mind for them. I then simply just start, and let stuff happen.

So, how do I begin writing, after I have all those very basic elements? Usually the first thing I have is a word count goal. This, recently, has been set at a 3k minimum, and I don't set a maximum. I also usually make sure I have a decent block of time; I make sure my studies and work are done, that I'm ok with not playing video games for the rest of the day, etc. Usually 3k takes me anywhere from 1-2 hours on a good day.

There are a few other things I have to make sure are set up. Since I have a severe case of ADHD, I often "self-medicate" on caffeine (which is like a relaxant for people with ADD). Lots of it. I also close my Firefox all the way, and boot up iTunes. I make sure I'm in a comfy chair (in this case, our loveseat) with my keyboard and monitor and glasses. Then, I'm ready to go.

For anyone curious, I use Pages on a Macintosh computer. The reason for this is simple: Pages has a "Full-screen" option. This fills the document to fit the screen, blacking out everything else on the edges. Essentially, it eliminates every and all distractions. While this might not work for outliners (they probably want multiple windows open to skim notes), for me it is exactly perfect. I can fully immerse myself in this story, and not stop until the characters let me.

At that point, I just go. I write based on things I often have been considering during the day (I usually think of what I'm going to write all day long. Despite what people think, discovery writing doesn't mean you have no idea at all what you are going to put down until your fingers hit the keys. It just means you didn't plan the whole book out far in advance. I often have the general idea for what a scene will be before I put fingers to keys). Now that I know, roughly, how many pages single spaced is how many words, I don't have to stop to check. I also refuse to let myself stop to check until I think I'm close to my goal. If I'm at 2k and feel tired, I force myself to keep going. I also don't allow myself to do any major edits until AFTER the word quota is met. For me, the flow of writing is everything. Full immersion leads to me continuing writing. If I am interrupted, I won't be able to write. However, if I'm left alone, it is very easy to put out anywhere from 4-6k in a single sitting. Assuming I have ample caffeine supplies nearby.

Another thing to note is that, during this time, my dear wife knows to not interrupt me (unless the apartment is burning down or something). I also usually wear noise-isolating headphones and listen to music. Often I pick songs that have a similar "feel" as I want the scene to be, but that isn't necessary. The only thing I have to watch out for is songs that I know too well and want to sing with. This is actually a big problem. If I focus more on the words, then I'll lose my foothold in the story, and have to go through the entire arduous process of immersion before I can begin writing again. This is why most of my playlists consist of music without words.

Probably the biggest thing, and what I think people can take from this, is that if you can set a difficult goal and then keep it, you will be set to write more and more. I swear every night that I won't sleep unless I write at least 3k. Even if I know the 3k will suck, I will write it, no matter what. Then, I get into the habit (and also my pride; I don't want to mess up my "streak") of writing, and it becomes easier and easier. A year ago, writing 500 words a day seemed near-impossible. Now, writing 2,000 is a piece of cake. That is really how it worked for me: I set a goal, and once I felt comfortable with it, I stretched it. I don't know if I can get beyond 5k a day (I was doing that pretty regularly with WGMD as I was finishing it), but if that's my peak, I am perfectly fine with it.

Also, the idea that I might get published and someday actually make money off this, as well as share it with more people, is a good motivator as well.


on Sunday, May 16, 2010

Week Dates: 5/10-5/16, 2010.
Total Word Count This Week (Paradise Seekers): 22,103.
Words Total for Paradise Seekers: 22,103.


Excerpts from this week:
He who does not fear death dies only once. - Giovanni Falcone

- Quote introducing Paradise Seekers

“Anyway,” Jen returned to me. “Before your Changing starts and we can’t get any more information out of you, I’d like you to tell me your dream.”
I blinked. “My...dream?” I’m empty-headed, literally, and you are going off about some dream?
Jen nodded, holding the hem of the apron tightly in her hands. “Yes, your dream. Something that connects all the Paradise Seekers is the dream we have before we awaken: everybody has one, and it almost always is one we’ve heard of before. It’s how we decide your job in Haven. For example,”
She stood up a little straighter, as if presenting something important. “My dream was me walking down a beautiful path. It was night, and stars twinkled over head. There were lights off in the distance, and to either side of me lay long ribbons of silver, stretching off into the distance. We call that the Silver dream, and that’s why I’m a Keeper. It isn’t a very frequent dream, which is why each house only has one Keeper.”
It made sense, in an odd way. I nodded, then turned my eyes towards Annie, who was still staring at me with a sort of childlike wonder. “What about you? What was your dream?” I inquired.

- Paradise Seekers, Chapter 1


It was a good week this week. I started Paradise Seekers actually several months ago, but was forced to drop it as I was still working on finishing Where Gods and Mortals Dance and I wanted all my assets going towards that. It pretty much boiled down to the fact I was writing ~6,000 words a day, and I had to decide how I wanted to distribute them. Since my writing group partner Andrea was leaving for a year and a half without internet or reading material the second week of May, I decided it would be best I finish WGMD rather than trying to spread myself out.

After WGMD was finished, I tried going back to the three chapters I'd written earlier. However, for some reason it just wasn't working. So, in an extremely rash move, I deleted the 5-6k words I had so far and started completely over. This was last Friday, and I managed to pound out an outline before this week started.

As stated, I wrote a rather awesome 22,103 words this week, calculated at about 3,158 word a day average, which constitutes the entire novel thus far. This is about 25% of the book. This is technically below average (verses the 6-10k I was putting out daily on WGMD), but it took a considerable amount of time in that novel to be invested enough to write so quickly. I am certain that, hopefully starting next week, I'll be able to up it to at least 5k a day average.

Mostly this week was spent introducing the world and the characters, as well as basic world building and one large plot development/twist. Next week we'll see the introduction of the second key character, as well as an introduction of the second main conflict.

Overall, writing is going better. I had the "postpartum depression" blues about Where Gods and Mortals Dance, making it hard to begin work on the next book. I also got myself far too excited for Effulgent Corruption, which made shifting gears back to Paradise Seekers hard. However, it ended up working for the best, as I am now very excited to see where this one is going, and also the prospect that I could finish it in around a month (which is my goal).

As for this blog, I've decided to give up rewriting last week's Ramblings on Writing, and instead will just move on as if it never was deleted. I'll also be posting some more book reviews soon.

On a final note, the cover art for Dan Wells' Mr. Monster is freaking incredible. It's odd that he never actually saw it until his copies came in the mail, but I really must say I'm impressed. I know authors have little or no say in their books' covers, but this sort of minimalistic approach really appeals to me. On an aside, my idea for a cover for Where Gods and Mortals Dance would simply be a black background, the text of the title and author, and one of the teardrop shaped masks the gods wear, lying in the background. Yep, that would be it. I think it would be great.

Onward and upward! See you all next week!