Add-on : Editing isn't THAT awful

on Thursday, July 29, 2010
Ok, so I bag on editing a lot because it bothers me, but really...it isn't that terrible. In fact, it's kinda therapeutic.
Let me clarify: Editing without other people's notes/feedback is totally hell. Often times, I know stuff is wrong, but have no idea what to do. Or, I glaze over crappy parts that need fixing, and dwell on stuff that just seems bad for me for some reason.
However, having an editor/alpha readers/etc. to critique and give feedback makes it LOTS easier. Is it time consuming? Yeah, sure. But its more of a...zen thing. I have a guideline, I just have to follow it. I don't have to draw in to my depths trying to figure out what the crap is wrong with this sentence...my notes will tell me where people got hung up.
Granted, Felipe made comments every freaking sentence, so I'll get back to you with my opinion in like a week. But still, helpful!

Also, I wrote a 3.5 page synopsis today. It's going to be impossible to trim that down...ok, not impossible, just really hard, so if someone demands it less than 3 pages I'll do that, if not we are stickin' with this.
Going to work my printer to the bone tonight. I need more envelopes. Big ones. FOR MY MANUSCRIPT.

Speaking of therapeutic things, submitting to agents is strangely not as stressful as I'd think. It's stressful to write the first "framework" query, the synopsis, etc, but personalizing queries and actually doing the sending is quite fun.
I'm fully prepared to get a butt-ton of rejection letters, but I'm not stressed. At least I'm doing it, and one of these days somebody will publish me. I'm just hoping it isn't like...myself. :P

Crap that is happening: Queries, editing, and synopsis suck.

Wondering what I've been up to recently? Well, you and everybody else. So here's the story.

- Been submitting queries to various agents, though not nearly enough. I stuck to email queries currently, but am advancing in the ranks to written ones starting today or tomorrow. Gotta get as many out before August 1st is my goal. (for those wondering, the queries are for Paradise Seekers)

- Finished Small Favor (next Dresden book) and will have a review up soon. Working on Turn Coat.

- Trying to write a synopsis for Paradise Seekers and wishing I wasn't so wordy. I hate synopsises. Synopsises? Synopsi? Synopsis? Whatever, who cares, the point is they suck. The first one I wrote, with me trying to write fast (and to the "chapter by chapter" thing the internet said worked) was freaking like ten bloody pages long. Yeah, that ain't gonna fly. I'm going to try and trim it down to a nice, manageable three pages right now. And by "trim" I mean "write an entirely new one."

- Editing Paradise Seekers, slow edition. It's slow when it takes an hour to just do two chapters. Luckily, the book is short and doesn't need any extensive edits (unlike WGMD, where the whole third needs rethinking), but it still kills me. I hate editing. It is helpful, however, that I have compiled all the specific notes into a single document I can put alongside me. It's easier to edit when people point out areas they have problems with, rather than me trying to find what I think sucks.

- I start work up again Monday, have a project due next week, and finals the week after. Needless to say, I'm going to be a bit busy, but I'm still going to try and write/edit a lot.

- I figured out Effulgent Corruption's plot, in its entirety. Yeah, I know, I'm all about discovery writing, but even I have to have somewhere to go. I have the world and the most basic idea for the story set out now...time to write it!

Anyway, that's it. I'm going to go write a synopsis in three pages or less. Urgh.

Status Update: I'm not quite as big a failure as I was last week.

on Sunday, July 25, 2010
I've actually been writing this week. Yeah, I know, what the crap. I finally had a week without a test (though I have a quiz and a written assignment due Tuesday...I'll worry about that when I get to it), so I managed to spend the time writing.

I have a very easy writing goal currently: 1,500 words a day, and I've been keeping it. The reason for the low count is because 1. I'm just getting back in the groove and 2. Despite all my discovery writing praise, it does have that drawback: I haven't really planned what is happening, and that slows it down.

And that, truly, is what is keeping the word count down. Usually when I write, I have a goal: a scene, somewhere off in the future, that is totally awesome and I need to write to get to it. This motivates me, and I write the book from scene to scene (often times, better scenes creep in between, but it's the anticipation that drives me to write on). Currently, I have like two "pie in the sky" goals in Effulgent Corruption: The ending (that's a bit too far off), and the start of the next part (which is also a good 20k words off, minimum, plus each part is a different viewpoint character, so...). This is slowing me down. I need to do some minimal plotting, and once I have this part in "general gist" status, I'll be able to haul through it.

Yeah, I know, technically you could count that as "outlining," blah blah, shut up. I just made up a whole chapter and it ended up not terrible, so there you go (though this is pretty rough. It'll smooth up later, ala Paradise Seekers and Where Gods and Mortals Dance).

Speaking of which, now I will barf words about Effulgent Corruption that you may or may not care about. These are fun factoids that you can use to impress your friends and astound your enemies.

- It's my first attempt at writing an anti-hero. That's actually one of the main reasons I started writing it.
- It has three viewpoint characters, but unlike my other novels where it either switches between chapters or just sticks to one guy, this one will switch in parts. Plus, all the characters are a considerable distance away (though one made a cameo in the third chapter) and doing their own things, so you won't know how everything fits together until the end.
- The idea behind this is to create three distinct tales (and characters) that are interesting enough that you'll care about each of their stories. Also, their individual stories are good enough that you won't hate me for jumping to them right when you get into the previous guy's turn. In the end, all their stories intertwine in a pretty cool way, or they will, once I get to it.
- It tentatively has 8 parts, and I already gave them titles. The last two break the "one person per part" and bounce around, as it is when they start running into each other on a more serious basis.
- Important characters will die. This isn't much new news, however, because every book I've written some important person has croaked.
- It's going to be way too damn long. I'm shooting a 30k max for each part, but I can tell already this first one is going to be longer. Maybe they'll shorten, or maybe I'll combine parts 7 and 8 and cut it down. Not sure. Point being, this thing's gonna be big.
- It'll be standalone, but my intention is to make it a two book set. I have a very basic idea about the second book, but nothing past that (discovery writing!)
- This is probably my most planned world and least planned story of any of my books. Lacrymosa was overdone on both story and world planning. Harbinger I had the basic idea and basic world, but mostly had characters. WGMD I had the purpose of the story and characters, so it worked out. Paradise Seekers was just planned to death, no comment. I know way too many tidbits about Effulgent Corruption's world, and not nearly enough detail about its characters. This could prove bad, though through discovery writing I'm getting to know a few better.
- I have the coolest font yet for the title and chapter headings. Oh yeah.

That's it. For your bit from the book, I'm just going to throw the prospective part names at you. And the characters associated (not that this means anything)


1 The Yawning Maw (Drake)
2 The Burning City (Ciara)
3 Keeper of the Balance (Rook)
4 The Damned Slayer (Drake)
5 Forgotten (Ciara)
6 The Greatest Prize (Rook)
7 Miasa (Drake and Rook)
8 The Cost of Vengeance (Drake, Ciara, and Rook)

If you aren't the protagonist of a YA novel, you are an idiot.

on Friday, July 23, 2010
Here's another rant, because they are fun and require less of my brain. The lack of brian usage, however, doesn't mean this is any less true. So, here we go.

I've read a lot of YA recently. The Maze Runner, Forest of Hands and Teeth, I Am Not a Serial Killer, The Hunger Games etc. My wife has also torn through a lot and talked with me about them (she just finished the Uglies "trilogy"), so I am well informed about that to. In all this, I have discovered a trend that actually sort of pisses me off in most modern YA novels. No, I'm not talking about "distopias," though those are certainly all the rage these days (next to vampire/monster teen romance novels). I'm taking about the fact that your protagonist always, no matter what seems to fall into one of these two categories:


1. Super genius who has the one key to saving the world and everything, and usually it's something everybody else overlooked. Also, everybody else is a moron.


2. A complete idiot who thinks she (it's usually a she) isn't popular, but for some reason boys won't leave her alone, except the one boy who she wants. She's also a totally dense idiot but somehow is completely special in every single way. It's like her very existence is an oxymoron. 

As you can guess, #1 usually ends up with distopians, and #2 ends up in those fluff romance monster crap. Let's focus on #1 first.

This is really starting to bug me to the point of making lots of YA unreadable. I'm perfectly fine with a protagonist being competent. Heck, I despise novels where the person the author decides to be the main character is, in fact, a nobody. Why are they the main character then? I don't to hear about Timmy Twoshoes who picks his nose and just can't save the world today.

So, we go the opposite direction completely. We have main characters who are insanely, ultra competent. So competent, in fact, that they can't possibly ever do anything wrong. They are super geniuses in everything they do, making it very easy for readers to Mary Sue all over them (more on that later).

But, even this isn't enough. What if somebody else in the world is almost as smart as them? Well, they've taken care of that problem: everybody else is a complete idiot. Sure, they may look like they can take care of themselves at first, but truthfully they are about as smart as brainless monkeys.

Example time!

In The Maze Runner, we have our main character, Thomas. He's thrown into some creepy maze place without any memories, a weird past, and a bunch of kids who are more "YMCA" than Lord of the Flies. Everybody's been in the maze for like two-three years, and they've been running the maze and writing maps of the ever-changing maze outside this whole time. However, in all this nobody has figured out anything minus basic survival tactics. Seriously, it's like none of them had ever been to school before (which is funny, considering the final plot twist).

But, never fear, retarded sub-characters: Your protagonist is here! Thomas immediately starts trying to figure out what's going on. At first the retarded side characters keep shutting him down  (everybody just tell him it "isn't important" or to "not ask questions," which was probably one of my biggest complaints about the book). Luckily, Thomas is like a rogue cop who plays by his own rules, so he goes off and just does whatever the crap he wants. Of course, the morons want to punish him, but they can't  because he's the protagonist. Within a week, Thomas cracks the code a group of 30+ geniuses have been working on for two years, solves a bunch of other riddles, uses the painful method of memory-unlocking for something useful rather than just going insane.

So, in the end, it's all about Thomas and how he fixed everything, and how everybody else sucked. Interesting? Sure. Realistic? Not even close.

Round two, a book that is also extremely popular: The Hunger Games books!

Ok, these things are super popular, so I might get some hate for this, but they totally have the #1 YA protagonist syndrome. Badly. The only difference is in this one, they add another character (Peeta) who is surprisingly as competent (if not more so) than Katniss (the main character). However, this doesn't stop the fact that it fits snugly in #1, and even lingers in #2 a little bit (mostly in the second book).

Katniss isn't anything to extraordinary, if the initial few chapters of the book are to be believed. She's good with a bow, can hunt well, and that is about it. So, when she gets selected for the Hunger Games (basically an arena where a bunch of kids run around killing each other), it doesn't seem like she has an enormous chance. Especially with like all the "pro" kids (called "careers") team up in one huge group to hunt down the rest of them. Basically, Katniss is screwed.

Except for some reason she isn't. Kat makes a friend (who quickly gets killed) and then is off on her own. She runs into Peeta again, but he's hurt, so she has to both take care of him and herself. And, huge surprise, the girl who we believed had no chance just can't die. Even with all the weird things that are suddenly thrown at her time and time again, she survives with hardly a scratch. In the final situation, she impulsively manages to pick the one option that can "beat" the games. Just like that. Like magic.


Book two (Catching Fire) starts with a switch from #1 to #2, mostly by throwing the "love triangle" thing in. Katniss doesn't think she's all that special, but the two boys in her life do. Suddenly, Peeta becomes the super, impossibly competent one, and Katniss gets thrown around by her emotions. This changes, of course, in the second half, but not by much. They go (small spoiler) back to the Hunger Games, but this time Katniss doesn't seem to do much of anything. Everybody else figures stuff out, and Katniss just sort of sits around until it's over. Occasionally she shows a flash of extreme competence, but usually she is just lead around. #2.

I can rattle off a few more like this. In the Uglies books, she starts a #2 and becomes a #1 right quick. In I Am Not A Serial Killer, he's very much a #1 (though Dan Wells manages to make us believe it is feasible). Ender's Game, with Ender in a school of geniuses but he is a super genius, is very much a #1. Until Ender's Shadow, where we learn Bean is the real super-genius (#1). Weird, he didn't come off like that when it was Ender's story...

Then you have Twilight, which is very much a #2 (until the 4th book, where's she's some weird hybrid between #1 and #2. She becomes a vampire but magically has no setbacks? What?). Forest of Hands and Teeth, very much a #2. Eragon books, so much a #1 (Mary Sue all up in that).

It's the YA syndrome! Everywhere!

Heck, even Paradise Seekers falls into this trap, somewhat. The difference being the other kids don't care about solving the puzzle, but that's just an excuse I'm using to justify my story. It's the same problem; Sam is a #1, and everybody else acts like idiots.

Somebody needs to fix this. Write a character that has flaws, but not a billion flaws. Write a character who is competent, but not freaking like a deity. Fix this, people.

Add on to my totally, 100% true post on Discovery Writing. OR: Writing (or not writing) your materpiece

on Thursday, July 22, 2010
So you've probably all read about the indisputable fact that Discovery Writing is the best way to write books, and have hopefully seen the error of your sinful ways and have converted to the fun, magical side of discovery writing. If not, then, well...maybe you should read it again.

At any rate, I was re-reading the blog post looking for errors (not really; I re-read it because I have a huge ego) and I stumbled upon Point 5. I fixated on the concept of "writing your masterpiece" (aka, your BEST IDEA EVER (tm)), and the comments I've heard from various sources on it. I thought I'd offer a few comments.


First, something that almost always comes up with writing group conversations is how Brandon Sanderson in his BYU class always encourages you to not write that masterpiece for that class. That book you've planned for years, the one that'll make you millions; you shouldn't write it yet. People often ask why, even though the answer is pretty clear.


Your "masterpiece" is what takes forever. It's what can never be right. It can never be right. This is because it has had years of buildup, years of planning, years of made-up movie trailers in your brain (maybe I'm the only person who does this), and so whatever you write can't possible be good enough. Most of the time, you end up writing a bit of it, and you suddenly realize writing is different than imagining something. You then either go back and edit, scrap it and start over, or just go back to planning. It's bad, and it takes forever.

Proof: My writing career.

Lacrymosa was my masterpiece. It's a trilogy (which currently only has a first book and a bit of the beginning of a second book), something me and a friend had been planning since we were 16. I started writing it when I was 20, and didn't finish writing it until I was 23 (from Summer 2006 to April 2009). It clocked in at 150,000 words, and was my first non-middle grade novel I ever finished.

And it almost didn't get finished. I actually broke Brandon's rule for his class and decided that if I was going to finish the damn thing, I was going to have to force myself to do it for his class. Needless to say, it worked, and the book ended. I thought it was the BEST IDEA EVER (tm), both before and after I finished it. 


Until I finished my second novel.


See, your masterpiece is usually pretty freaking terrible. I'll be the first to openly say that Lacrymosa isn't all that great. It has a lot of things I really like, and I feel the storytelling works, but everything else (prose, pacing, magic) is fair to poor at best. This was the thing I'd spent nearly four years planning and rolling over in my brain before writing it. How could it be worse than something I threw out in a month (see: Paradise Seekers)?


So, here's my shout out to all you people with your "masterpieces:" write something else until you are sure you can get to that. And, if you do decide to write it, write it on a deadline. Say you have six months to write it (or whatever a manageable timeframe is for you, but don't give yourself more than a year). If you don't, you'll be on that dumb thing forever. And, the worst part is, once you write it, it probably won't be that great. I'm willing to bet whatever you put out next is better. 


I forgot where I'm going with this, and I'm writing it in Applied Social Psychology so it's hard to stay focused, but here is my point: Writing something you come up with later on is usually better. It usually is more original, and works better.

This is, of course, because Discovery Writing is the best. You Outliners and your "Masterpieces".

Pishaw.

Wrote Today. Woo!

on Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Yep, I wrote today. It was Writing Wednesday, but despite that I still didn't do as much as I'd hoped (other things got in the way). However, I still managed a good 2k, and I'm going to shoot for 2k every day from here on out.

It's hard Tues/Thurs, because I have two 2 1/2 hour classes on those days, going from 12 - 6:30, and it totally fries my brain. However, tomorrow my 4-6:30 class is cancelled, so I'm going to try and write a ton.

I'm enjoying the scene, though I'm not sure what happens after entirely. The joys of discovery writing. I'll keep on updating.

Haven't done any major Paradise Seeker edits yet. If I want to query to Sanderson's agent, I'm going to need to do it now; submissions close end July. I still don't have a summary, either. Ah well.

Bit from today:


 Zahed watched Drake’s face tense, then gave a small laugh. “Aia. Like you said, you are not that man anymore. You are Gengrena, Marked. Also, I would hate to have the only respectable man in this cart as my enemy.”
Drake put aside his original questions for a moment, which he had planned on restating once Zahed was completed. “Respectable? Me? You must not know me very well.”
He gave a small smile to show it was a joke. Zahed laughed out loudly, causing a few of the lethargic other prisoners to give him a small glance. They then returned to their moaning or crying, huddled into fetal balls or grasping out at the hot desert sands.
Zahed licked his drying lips. “Ah, but I know you better than you think, Miasa. Look at these poor fools,” Zahed gestured forward with a blackened arm to the rest of the cart. The desert outside the cages was waving in the intense heat, and Drake suddenly realized how deathly thirsty he was.
“These poor bastards are wrecks,” Zahed continued. “Look at them, the Gengrenas, writing and crawling like pathetic animals. They are weak, useless. They will not last one day in the Makana. The pit will eat them, like the mouth it be named after. But not you.”
Zahed stared deeply into Drake’s eyes, and in the darker man’s expression Drake could see a sense of respect. “You stood, tall. You did not cry like a beaten dog. You did not cry to the Dead Eight, or try and convince yourself this was a yanta, a dream. You stood strong, despite your nakedness and scent. You are a different kind of man, Miasa. And for that, I can respect you.”

-Effulgent Corruption, Zahed

Bonus:


A silence hung between the two men as Drake thought. It was hard for him to keep from shouting. “So, you’ve escaped the Yawning Maw before! Xazion’s dead body, that means it is possible! Which means-”
He stopped. Which means I have a chance. A chance to get out, to escape the prison pit.
To kill Divinious.
He looked back at Zahed, and found the Diasaran was shaking his head. “Do not give yourself false hope, Miasa. It was luck, not skill, that allowed me to escape the Makana. One does not escape for long before the Dessentos find you.”
The pause was long. “Or the Corruptos.”
“Corruptors,” Drake spoke what must have been the Finalan version of the word. “I’ve never heard of those, until just today. The man who I saw, the large one, they said he was a Corruptor. Beast of a man; had marks in his hands, chest, and eyes.”
Drake caught himself rambling, then capped it with a question. “Is that what happened? Did a Corruptor find you?”
Zahed gave a long shudder. “Dead Grax, ta. If a Corruptos had found me,” he gave another swallow. “I would be resting happily a requata instead of this cage.”
“Requata?”
Zahed didn’t move. “Funeral cart.”


Why Discovery Writing is the Best Writing Method Ever

on Tuesday, July 20, 2010
As you can see from the title, this is another one of those things where I "pretend" to be better and smarter than you, and state some extremely questionable and debatable opinion like it's fact.
I put "pretend" in quotes because, deep down, everybody knows I'm never wrong and agrees with me anyway. Anybody who argues is just playing the devil's advocate for the sake of playing the devil's advocate. Because I'm right. As usual.

And with that out of the way, on to my rant.

It has often been said there are two types of writers: Discovery Writers and Planners. Of course, we all know it isn't that black and white; these are more of two ends (with pure discovery writers and pure outliners capstone-ing the sides) and everybody falls in the middle gray spots. However, people often tend to lean more towards one or the other (I've never met an author who fell directly in the middle), and whichever side they are closest to is the one they claim their affiliation with. It's much like political parties; most people aren't 100% republican (except maybe my grandmother) or 100% democrat; we fall somewhere in-between when you get down to the nitty-gritty.

However, all you outliners really need to get with the program, because discovery writing is way better for the story. Or, at least, I'm going to point out some things that benefit from that process of writing. Maybe, if I'm feeling particularly generous, I'll throw a bone to outlining as well and post some positives, but don't hold your breath.

----------

Why Discovery Writing is the Best Ever (For Reals)
By Nathan Major


POINT 1: Characters are more realistic in discovery writing


People don't usually plan what they say. Ok, that isn't completely true - I plan like the next sentence or two in a conversation - but there is still a level of spontaneousness in conversations. Things don't always go the direction people want, people get off on tangents, etc. In the natural flow of conversation it is just that: a flow. It isn't meticulous or plotted out. It just happens.

Which is why discovery writing works better for this than outlining. Many authors outline conversations or plans, have ideas for exactly what everybody is going to say long before the words come out of their mouthes. Is this good? Well, sure, all the info gets there. But the spontaneousness of being in the characters and seeing how they respond to each other is lost. Conversations just work better.

This can be applied to more than just talking, of course. People don't often react rationally to situations. In fact, in crisis or frantic situations, people usually do the wrong thing. However, if the author has planned out a scene for months down to every detail, it might show in their character actions. People might do something a little too well thought-out when the sudden plot twist appears, rather than react realistically. Is this a terrible thing? Not really; it certainly makes a person seem more competent. But it also makes them less human and more pre-planned robots.

Which brings me to my blanket statement: Characters in outliners' books are robots, characters in discovery writers' books are real people. FACT.

POINT 2: A Discovery-Written Book is More Exciting and Spontaneous


You know what is boring? The Council of Elrond chapter in Lord of the Rings. Yes, I'm hating on what might be the greatest fantasy book ever, but every time I re-read that book I skip that chapter. You want to know why it's boring? Because it looks really good on paper or an outline, but in execution it is just a slogging infodump.

Ok, that isn't completely true, I actually don't mind that chapter anymore. And also, bashing J.R.R. Tolkien is just asking for trouble. But the point is, a lot of things that seem great when planning are actually quite boring. Or, as stated in POINT 1 above, when the execution for scenes happen, the results can be very stale. Due to overplanning and this need to follow an outline, all the life has been sucked away from a scene. Nothing seems spontaneous and new; it was all just a huge plan.

Discovery writers don't have this problem. When you write as a discovery writer, you are bombarded with cool ideas all the time. It's like having ADD, only it actually makes sense (which, I sure wish my ADD made sense sometimes). You can do whatever you want, blast whatever twist you want, make people weird or crazy or exciting. It all seems natural and totally ballin' (that's the technical term, for the record), and your readers are just caught up in the excitement and action. There are few boring spots because, who plans that far ahead? If there is an infodump, it is often interspersed into an exciting scene or crazy setting. The pace is kept fast; nobody ever sits down in a discovery-written book for more than like five minutes. They are...

POINT 3: The Main Characters are WAY More Proactive


People sit around a lot in books. I hate that. That's why I usually read YA, because the length constraint makes it so stuff is always going on. In most Epic Fantasy, people sit around all the time. And, hey, guess what? Most long-winded Epic Fantasy guys are planners, and YA authors are discovery writers. That's a huge generalization, but it's also 100% fact because you read it on this blog and I am a creditable source, like Wikipedia.

Anyway, people don't sit around in discovery written books. Usually, this is because the author projects themselves onto the main character, which means they keep doing stuff throughout the story without letting up. We write because our world is boring. There are no dragons, magic, princesses, or any of that stuff. We are sitting in some desk in a room, staring at a screen, putting words on a page. So we want those to be exciting words. We want adventure and action that we can't have in real life. So, if you are discovery writing, your protagonist soaks up the world he or she is in. He doesn't bumble around and go to meetings, he shoots monsters in the face and does cool magic. It doesn't let up.

POINT 4: It's More of a Challenge


Discovery writing is hard for a lot of people, even discovery writers themselves. Being able to sit down with very little (we secretly do plan a reasonable amount, just not meticulously) and just rely solely on imagination to do the job at your beck and call is a huge amount of faith. Lots of outliners sit at a desk with pages strewn everywhere, maps, pictures of various flora and fauna of their magical world, family trees, all that garbage. If you discovery write, often you have to remember all that stuff in your head, or make up something completely plausible on the fly. That's not easy; that's tough. Especially if you gave a title to nobility in your novel, and every time you need that word you can't for the life of you remember it! (curse you, Effulgent Corruption!).

Planners have like four years of research to lean on. If they get stuck, they can just pull out chapter 34 and write that instead, because it's already planned ha ha. But you know what? You are just a wimp. Real men write with nothing.

POINT 5: Discovery Writers Finish Books


Let's be honest here: everybody plans their first book. Nobody just sits down and starts writing. They write because they've had the BEST IDEA EVER (tm) for the past six years, and they are FINALLY WRITING THEIR MASTERPIECE (tm). They get pumped, tell all their relatives about their new career, and decide they are real authors now. 


Then they write one chapter and never write any more. They just keep planning.


Forever.


This is the plague of most outliners (Jason, I'm looking at you): they plan too much. They plan their "masterpiece." And they keep planning it forever. It'll never be perfect, it'll never have the best magic system, it'll never be ready to go. It'll be so close, but it won't ever hit that point. This is probably because, as time passes and you read more/different stuff, your opinion of what is the BEST IDEA EVER (tm) changes, and thus your outline changes to accommodate. So, you write like one book every five years, or one book ever, and then you are done.


Discovery writers look at this problem and laugh. We don't get stuck on maps or graphs or city names that have to all fit perfectly. We just make them up as we go! It's called being creative, and we can do it on command. That's because we are better (see Point 4) at doing hard things, like putting words to pages. You outliners are good at planning things and then not carrying out those planes. I'm sure you'll have a nice seat in congress one day. 


POINT 6: Discovery Written Books are Shorter and Less Boring


Yeah, see, we don't have to put every little detail from our plannings in. We don't have to cram all those cute, detailed histories you spent years laboring over into our books. Often planners want to show all these little bits of garbage they've put together over the years. If not IT GOES TO WASTE!

So, you write 500,000 word books that just drag on and are so full of wordy worldbuilding we want to use it as a cure for insomnia.

Discovery written books have a fast pace because they are written fast paced. They don't have slow starts or boring middles, because no discovery writer would subject themselves to that. They don't bog up in the politics of dwarves or the nobility of elves, because we don't plan all this useless crap and therefore don't feel obliged to throw you into the infodump quagmire. We keep it fast, fresh, and exciting. We want you to keep reading, so we do it that way. And so, our books are more readable.

POINT 7: We can just sit down and write, without having to go through "foreplay"


Ha, see that little sexual innuendo up there? I discovery wrote that. That's because I'm witty. 


Anyway, that's the point: outliners can't just sit down and write whenever they want. They can't just pop out something super-fast. If they are given a writing prompt, they can't just "have an hour to write," they need more. They have to go over details, plans, characters, city names, distances, geography, language, religion, all this crap. It just goes on forever, and that spontaneousness or satisfaction of just sitting down for an hour and writing the entire hour is a sweet, delicious fruit they'll never taste.

Discovery writers, on the other hand, just sit down and go. They don't get bored of their books, because they never have to plan. If they do get bored, they can just add stuff to make it more exciting. If they say to their spouse or significant other, "I'm going to go write my book for a few hours," they actually have something to show after it instead of a map or some family tree. They get it done, and get it done fast. No messing around, straight to business every time.

Which also means if you have people who want to read something new every day, then they'll have something. I don't think your readers want to look at your boring pictures of a city's market district. Boring.

------------

So, there is a bunch of things that are good about discovery writing. Secretly there are a few "bad points" to discovery writing people have brought up. I use quotes, again, because it just isn't true: no real discovery writer has these issues. But, for those making the switch to the better writing style might have these problems (probably carried over from writing with inferior technique the past six years. Six years for one book, I might add), so it might be good to throw them out there.

SUCKY PART 1: You Can Get Stuck


Pulling imagination on command can be a huge pain in the butt, and often times it just doesn't happen. Had a bad day? Writing is gonna suck, if not be impossible. Unsure of where stuff is going to go at all? You'll probably write 500 words and give up. Discovery writing requires a very malleable and commendable imagination; if you don't have it, writers block will kill  you.

Outliners don't seem to be plagued with this. If they get stuck, they have an outline to lean back on. I imagine it like this: Discovery writers, when approaching a chapter, have a big block of clay that is just a huge blob. They have to turn this into something, with no basis at all. Outliners, on the other hand, have it already in a shape (such as a person or an animal), they just have to fill in the details. They have a place to start, and so getting to the end can be easier.

Of course, we all know this is BLATANTLY CHEATING, but it is something worth mentioning.

SUCKY PART 2: The Endings Can Be Huge Messes aka Foreshadowing Problems


As stated, most discovery writers do plan a little (that whole "not black and white" thing above). No human can expect to write something good just pulling it out of the hat. We have to have a spark or muse, something that made us write. Often, this is a particularly compelling scene, setting, etc. that prompts us to write the story (like, say, magic that kills you).

The problem is, that means a lot of the other planning is forgotten, so when you get to the end your book might turn into some trainwreck. Final twists aren't foreshadowed. Characters go all crazy. The ending is totally forced. Twists come out of nowhere. What started out as a cool, exciting concept completely falls into the nut-house and it becomes evident that the author really wasn't sure what was going on.

I don't have this problem, mostly because I'm a superior being, and also because the ending is the first thing I usually figure out before I put fingers to keyboard. But some people don't.

And that can totally ruin your book. Having one or two cool ideas that show up in the middle is nice, sure, but that can't carry a novel. Just because the girl's boyfriend is a vampire doesn't mean the other 99% of the book is worth anything. Because of this, twists (as stated above) seem forced, not foreshadowed, and whatever "Aha!" moments there might have been die.

Outliners, obviously, don't struggle with this. They might have this problem in the planning stages, but nobody sees their notes (unless they sell them on eBay or something). By the time they are writing, all these issues are ironed out; their skeleton is stable, they just have to put meat on the bones. If they can make it past Point 5 above, then they'll usually run through it without too many hiccups.

SUCKY PART 3: You have to edit it like 20,000 times


As said above, once you finish your book, it probably has some wrinkles, and these are usually larger for discovery written books rather than outlined books. Of course, this means you have to do the worst thing ever: edit. And not just edit, rewrite. Chapters get completely nuked and new ones fill their spots. Characters get nuked and new ones are added. Things you thought were "OMG SO COOL" at one point are just hindrances and you have to go Old Yeller on them.

And you don't get to just do this once, you have to do it a lot, because you probably messed up a lot.

So, truthfully, you are doing your "planning" after the book is done. You have to figure out the world, how everything fits together, etc. after the rough draft is on paper. Outliners just do it before. It's the idea of the guardrail on the cliff vs the ambulance at the bottom. Outliners have the guardrail. Discovery writers rely on a lot of band-aids.

However, I'll go so far as to say that usually, even with all the required editing, the time spent from start to finish is usually shorter than outliners still. Outliners still have to edit, just not as drastically. Plus, if the outline is terrible (you'd think you'd run it by your writing group before writing it), then you might be in the same boat as discovery writers. Still, it is a common theme among discovery writers that editing is going to happen. A lot of editing.

And I hate me some editing.

----------

So, there you have it. Discovery writing is far superior to outliners. If you are one of the sinners, I think you should try and give the other side an attempt. Write a chapter without planning it. See how it turns out. And, when it is inevitably better than every other thing you've written, feel free to send me gifts in the form of money via PayPal for opening your eyes to this better way of writing.

If you keep outlining...well...I look forward to reading your book.

Ten years from now.

Effulgent Corruption is back in action...for reals this time.

on Monday, July 19, 2010
For reals this time, I wrote some more Effulgent Corruption, and I think I'm finally (for reals this time) starting to get into it (for reals this time).

What I did today (writing wise, the rest of it was studying, which is boring):

- Helped a friend brainstorm an idea for a scene.
- Wrote a good half-chapter in Effulgent Corruption
- Listened to feedback for said chapter (as well as read said brainstormed chapter above and offered feedback)
- Helped the friend (aka Jason) figure out the rest of his book. Jason is plagued by that constant new writer problem: great writing, fun characters, but can't finish a book for the life of him. After plotting and figuring out the end (which, to my surprise, Jason doesn't really plan out, at least not for the most recent novels), our combined powers produced some ideas I thought were actually quite fantastic, and I'm excited to see where his book ends up.
- Brainstormed the next bit in Effulgent Corruption. Actually, I've had this scene planned for a while, and already it's going differently than planned (as it happens when my characters just do whatever they want). Hopefully I can divert them in the right direction.

School with lots of work and a test tomorrow. But I will still try and write 1k. We also beat Diablo II (with expansion) today, so hopefully that will stop any future distractions (yeah, right).

ALSO: We have moved! I have a Writing Room! Expect pictures soon! Hint: It's tricked out in a big way.


Bit from EC I wrote today (not my best, but we'll take it)


The dark man didn’t answer at first. Instead, he just stared at Drake’s face, his eyes squinting, as if trying to decipher something. Drake let him, returning the gaze, determination set in his eyes. The man now spoke in a whisper.
“You were a Kian, yes? Rich? Did not see many Marked, except perhaps servants or slaves. Aia, Miasa?”
Drake didn’t know if he should tell this man his past so openly, but despite his better instincts he gave a slight nod. The Diasaran kept staring.
“Lliar,” he finally said. “General Lliar, aia?”
Drake blinked, then set his jaw. “It isn’t polite to ask one’s name without giving your own, Diasaran. And I asked you a question.”
The dark-skinned man’s lips rose again into a wide smile. “Yes, you are right, Miasa. They called me Flikanda, you may do so if you wish.”
Drake shook his head. “I want your name, Diasaran. Then, perhaps I will tell you mine.”
The man shrugged nonchalantly. “As you wish. My full name is Ziahandara Liam Hanealem. However, that is far too long for any to speak should they wish to keep their breath, so you may call me by my nichanda, nickname: Zahed.”

- Effulgent Corruption, Chapter 4: Zahed

Who I write like: Huh.

on Sunday, July 18, 2010
I found this site on the internet. Here are some interesting results (I only posted one chapter in for each)

Effulgent Corruption:

I write like
Margaret Mitchell
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Where Gods and Mortals Dance



I write like
Margaret Atwood
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Paradies Seekers


I write like
William Shakespeare
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Lacrymosa 



I write like
H. P. Lovecraft
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!


I found it interesting none of these things were the same. They were all different people, even though some of them, particularly WGMD and Effulgent Corruption, were both done in an extremely similar style.

Though the Paradise Seekers --> Shakespeare thing is the weirdest. But look, it didn't say James Dashner, so it isn't like The Maze Runner. Ha ha, take that. :P

BOOK REVIEW - White Night by Jim Butcher

on Thursday, July 15, 2010
By Jim Butcher (Official Webpage)
Buy it here: White Night

Blurb Review


Taking the wealth of information and buildup that has been the foundation for the Dresden books thus far, White Night is a culmination of just about everything fantastic in the Dresden files. While it might not discover new tidbits or exciting revelations about Harry's character, White Night is just what it is: another fantastic, riveting adventure starring Harry Dresden.

Full Review


Harry is back. If I remember my history of this series correctly, they were all originally published in paperback only (much like Larry Corria's Monster Hunter books). However, after some point, Butcher's publisher finally realized exactly what a phenomenon these books were, and so White Night was simultaneously published in both hardcover and paperback. Yay!

This is also the only Dresden book that has maintained a perfect 5/5 star rating on amazon.com, based on 150 reviews (link above next to "Buy it here"). So, going into it, I expected a lot.

Hot of the heels of Proven Guilty, Harry as a new apprentice, the war is still going on between vampires and wizards (it's been almost 4 years I believe since Summer Knight), and Murphy needs him to help solve a case. Big surprise. White Night is almost traditional in how it follows the similar style as the first two books, Storm Front and Fool Moon. Unlike these books, however, Butcher has had years of experience in his belt, so he takes the mystery and does it right.

Somebody is killing witches in Chicago, and leaving a trail that only magic can find. This leads Dresden to believe the killer is sending a message to him, which sends him off on yet another crazy adventure. He once again is thrown into a conflict between himself and the White Court of Vampires (the main big, bad monster from Blood Rites, vampires who feed off human emotions). It eventually culminates into a vampire duel (reminding one of Death Masks) as well as a sort of vampire party (ala Grave Peril). It works, very well, though there are a few slight problems.

But back to the good stuff: this book really felt like a "best of" Dresden book. Butcher did little to mix up the formula that has worked so well for his other books; in fact, he is almost religiously loyal to the pacing and setup that made all the other books great. As mentioned above, bits seem taken out of the best parts of previous books, which works too. Also Elaine, Dresden's old flame from his childhood (who was last seen in Summer Knight) also shows up, as well as a lot of other character. I'm pretty sure the only ones not here from other books were Billy and the werewolf pack, and Susan (though she is mentioned). Butcher does an exceptional job with this series: he doesn't throw all the characters in at once; he spaces them out so, once you really start to wonder where they are, they come back. It is a testament to his fantastic planning (minus the first two books).

White Night is very fast, and you learn a few new snippets about Harry and the supporting cast. Molly, his apprentice newly established in Proven Guilty, is back and has grown up a little. Rameriez, one of my favorite Wardens who played a key role in the climactic battle at the end of Dead Beat (you know, the one with the zombie T-Rex Harry rides), is also here in full force. He's sort of a womanizing, arrogant joker, and actually plays very well with Harry's sense of humor (and falls into a rather amusing and revealing joke at the end of White Night that had me laughing quite hard). As a book, it reads very well.

I did have a few complaints, however. As mentioned before, it's a bit formulaic: Butcher just stuck with what worked and rolled with it. This is fine, I suppose, but considering this is the 9th book in the series, I was hoping he'd keep on improving so the formula wouldn't go stale (it was running the risk at the end). I'd also like to point out that the ending was really a lot like the ending of both Grave Peril  and Blood Rites, which again falls into that formula thing. Lastly, I really wanted more Molly. She's his apprentice, and I can understand him sheltering her, but she really just didn't seem to exist for a good 90% of this book. Considering what a key role she played in Proven Guilty, I was sad to see her set into the backburner.

Still, White Night is a lot of fun, and certainly worth reading. Oh; there is one key point I forgot to mention: Something rather monumental that has been hanging over Harry's head since freaking Death Masks (Book 5) FINALLY gets resolved in this book. I spend the last four books wondering how he was going to beat it, and I was very satisfied with how it resolved. The downer is that was my main concern with Harry in terms of internal conflict, and now that it's done I feel a bit sad.

At any rate, if you've followed the series to book 9 at this point, you probably don't care about what I wrote here. Point is: if you love Dresden, you won't be disappointed, just don't expecting as mind blowing in its revelations as Death Masks, Blood Rites, or Proven Guilty.

Re-reading WGMD

on Friday, July 9, 2010
I miss Useless. :/

Book Covers - Some Favorites and Not So Much

on Thursday, July 8, 2010

Since we are still talking about book covers, I thought I'd make a post about some book covers I like. As stated in my previous post, I consider a title and cover to be one of the most important "hooks" a novel can have, when it is sitting on that boring old shelf at the bookstore. Again, went to Barnes and Noble yesterday, and it was clear some awesome covers stuck out, and some not-as-awesome covers made me just not care.

So, first, let's go by some authors!

Brandon Sanderson


Brandon has had some...really odd covers. First print Mistborn is too easy to pick on, so let's just talk about his first novel, Elantris. 




So, here we have the US cover. Not bad, right? It doesn't scream "generic fantasy," but a casual observer has no idea what's going on. That's what bothers me a lot about covers: in order to know what is going on, you have to get a good 1/3 through the book. But the cover is there for people who don't know what is going on to be enticed. So, in that vein, wouldn't something artistic work better?
Hot damn! This is the German Elantris cover, and I often consider it the best of his (out of all his covers). Elantris is about a cursed city. This cover is simple, clean, easy on the eyes, and gets the idea across. It also looks cool. However, there is another Elantris cover that is also pretty rad...

This is the Japanese Elantris cover. You can see the regional art style influencing it; it has a somewhat "anime" flavor. Plus, there's some weird rodant thing in the bottom right. I don't remember that being in the book. But dude: look how cool Prince Raoden looks! He's like a total badass! Though he does remind me of Cecil from Final Fantasy IV...


Ok, so Elantris has some good covers. What about some awful ones? Pretty much all the Warbreaker covers were pretty ugly.
This is the US release of Warbreaker. Truthfully, it's a decent picture, and I like the colors. The font looks like it was just done using a generic photoshop filter, and Sanderson is starting that whole "my name is bigger than the title" thing that people do when they get big. The problem with this cover is that it just...doesn't make sense. The first thing I thought when I saw it was, "Oh look, it's Storm from the X-Men eating a Fruit-by-the-foot." Seriously. It looks just like that. But somebody thought it was a cool idea, because the audiobook took the fuglyness to a new level.

Ignoring the fact that GraphicAudio advertises it as "A Movie in your Mind!" (hooray for brain invasion!), this picture is essentially like the first Warbreaker cover, except drawn by someone who graduated with an undergrad in pastels. There's just too much crap in this picture. Though, I do like the dress on the girl (I forgot her name; I kind of repressed Warbreaker from my mind). 

But none of this compares to the current (?) Warbreaker cover, or at least the one they are advertising.
I dunno if this is a placeholder or something, but holy crap. I don't think I need to tell you why this cover looks awful. It should be pretty freaking obvious. 

Robert Jordan 

I've never liked the Wheel of Time covers, except the very first one. This is for the hardcover books. They've had the same artist throughout, and the usually depict some unknown scene from the book, and usually it involves them standing around or doing nothing. Seriously, not very exciting. Plus, since the series started like a billion years ago, what was popular for fantasy covers then just doesn't fly now. But, they still use the same guy (guess he signed some deal?) so we won't see the end of it until Brandon finishes the series.

This, however, is excluding the audiobooks. Let's take a look at just one of them, The Shadow Rising.

Well, out of all the Wheel of Time covers, this one at least has nice colors. You have two guys hanging around, smoking, while the woman is cooking. Yeah, ok, it's a bit of a sexist cover (why are the guys standing around while she does all the work? Shouldn't they at least be fighting baddies or something?), but there isn't anything (minus the blatant sexism) that leaps out at you. Compare this to the audiobooks, which all have totally different covers from the regular books.
Holy. Crap. There's Mat, who was previously just sitting around and making a woman cook for him, and is now walking in front of some gnarled old tree with ravens and a HUGE FREAKING SPEAR on his shoulders, looking totally badass. In fact, all the audiobook covers look significantly cooler than their hardcover equivalents. Wow. 

Jim Butcher

If you've been to a store recently, you've seen Jim Butcher's books. All the covers are pretty much the same: the artist picks some background color theme (yellow, green, blue, etc.) and then puts a dark, brooding Harry Dresden in front, staff in hand, hat on his head (he doesn't ever wear a hat!), and with a black background. If you think these get a little repetitive, at least they don't print the original covers anymore. 
Ugh. Look at that title. Each letter is in its own box? That looks freaking awful! All the way up until Proven Guilty (if I remember correctly), they used this style on the covers. It looks terrible. Just look at any of the reviews I've done, and you can see how much better it looks.

Before we move on, however, I'd like to point out a Dresden cover that I really like, a lot. It is actually the book I'm currently reading, and it has stuck out with me before I even started considering the series. 
Now, this isn't much different from the other covers. Brooding Harry, with hat (ugh), and staff, obnoxious SciFi channel logo on the cover...all accounted for. However, you'll notice something completely different: THIS COVER IS WHITE. That's right; every Dresden book up until this point has been black themed, but this is the only white cover. Imagine, looking on a bookstore shelf. You have piles of black Dresden books, and suddenly this one lunges at you like an bastard child. It's brilliant. As of now, there is no other Dresden book that is white, though the next one (Ghost Story), which is a start of the new Dresden "season" is white. Are the next 12 Dresden books going to be white now? Except one, that will be black? I'm really thinking about this too much. 

James Dashner

As a person, I like James Dashner quite a bit. He's got a sort of reserved, biting sense of humor that I totally enjoy. Having him on panels at Conduit and during his guest visit in Sanderson's class last Winter was a real treat. He pointed out then some of his book covers, and I'd like to pull up this horrible gem from his first series. 
This just screams small publisher. Some generic kid's face (who gets flipped and put on the other side for the rest of the series' covers), and some generic landscape they probably googled and then slapped on the cover. Not to mention the title "A Gift of Ice" blends a little too well with the gray snow behind it, while the Jimmy Fincher Saga on top is orange for some god-only-knows reason. Ugh.

Then, he wrote The Maze Runner, and now has a big pool of money a-la Scrooge McDuck. 
Yeah, it's an ok cover. Having the "James" and "Dashner" not line up perfectly gives it a modern feel, as does the odd font. The background picture is OK, though you have to look twice or three times to figure out what is going on, which I never thought was a great thing. Luckily, the foreign rights people knew how to make a cover totally awesome. 
Holy movie poster! It even has a tagline: "Remember. Survive. Run." As we are a nation raised on media, that title is certain to grab you. 
As a bonus, recently posted on Dashner's blog, we have the Brazilian version, which looks straight out of some horror novel. 
Creepy. Though I think "movie poster" up there is still the best. 

John Bellairs 

As stated in my review, The Face in the Frost is one of my favorite books ever. The image I used in the review I considered to be an ok cover...it has an "early 90s" feel to it, but hey...it works. What doesn't work is the re-issue cover, that looks putrid.
Way to take my favorite book, and make it unappealing in nearly every way. This one is worst than the Jimmy Fitcher book above...they didn't even bother blowing up the background image to fill the cover. This doesn't even look "small publisher" bad...it looks "self published" bad. Bellairs deserved better.
Luckily, the picture on the audiobook is totally rad. 
Yeah, there you go. Some sweet wizard looking in the green-glass paperweight and seeing a freaking skull. Plus, there's that cool mouse in the back. I never did figure out what that guy's deal was. Keep in mind, it was this cover, solely the cover, that caused me to pick up the audiobook fromt he library in the first place. So there's gotta be something there. 

Orson Scott Card

I'll be honest: I'm not a fan of Mr. Card's work. I love his writing for the Living Scriptures cartoons, and Ender's Game  and Ender's Shadow are great. I just don't like anything else he wrote (including the rest of the Ender series). 

So, Ender's Game is a great book. But it has never had a good cover. Here's the one it had when I picked up the book (I totally grabbed it by random when I was like 12, by the way. Nobody suggested it; I just thought it was a book I would read). 
Not bad. Plus it has a bunch of awards on it. However, I've read this book like 20 times, and I still have no idea what scene this is from the bok. Is this Ender flying to that space station at the beginning? Or maybe the one at the end? Or maybe on his super emo-journey at the very end so Mr. Card could put out more sequels?
One thing I do know is that it is a billion times better than this cover they put out a while back, when I guess they decided to try and market the book to kids. 
Out of all the terrible covers I've posted, this one is my personal "most despised." Ender's Game is a dark book, about kids playing super-violent games and adults purposefully manipulating them to make them into soulless, killing tacticians. This looks like something out of Tron starring that kid from The Sixth Sense. It makes it look like fun, never mind the fact that they were shooting each other, swearing and intimidating each other constantly, and pretty much being put through kid hell. Just looking at the cover makes me want to punch whoever green-lighted it. Ugh.

Dan Wells

Yeah, these are primarily Mormon authors. I'm Mormon too, so it happens. Shut up. 

Dan's book first made it big in the UK, and while I thought the cover was ok, it was uninspired. 
I didn't think the US version was much better. It lost that super bright, eyeball burning red that just sears into your brain, but it also got really boring.
Better? Yeah. And there's some blood. But...why is it on a sheet of lined paper? What's up with that? No clue. 

Then, Wells US cover artist got CRAZY good, and released two of my favorite covers ever.
Wow! These look great! Mr. Monster is my personal favorite (very minimalist, but surprisingly dark), and I Don't Want to Kill You also looks really fun.


A few more
Here's a few more random covers I think look cool. Some are from books I've read, some not. I just like them. 



Got some favorite covers? Let me know in the comments!

Nathan Major vs. Writing Excuses

on Tuesday, July 6, 2010
I find it interesting that I just posted on how first sentence obsessions annoy me, and that same Sunday the Writing Excuses podcast ("Mating Plumage") was on first sentences, covers, and titles.

I found myself agreeing with Dashner on the majority of the subjects. Book covers are what really help pull me in, as well as titles. For me, the "judging" period of the book happens before I even begin to open it. As I've said countless times, I started really noticing the Dresden files because of how cool I thought the covers were (also because there were so many, which means they must be good if he gets 12 books out). Other instances include The Eye of the World, which I started reading because the cover was cool, and I Am Not a Serial Killer, which I knew about because of Writing Excuses, but the title was what really solidified my desire to read the book. The Maze Runner was also a book that I wanted to read because of the title. I actually have actively averted myself from Dashner's other big series, The 13th Reality, because I thought the series title was extremely generic (sorry James, but I still think that. I'm going to give the books a shot, though...someday). On the other side, A Series of Unfortunate Events sucked me in because of the clever series title.

So, I agree that covers and titles do influence me. Call me shallow, but there are a lot of books in the bookstore, and a lot of bad fantasy novels for sale. When a book has a cool title, I'll pull it off. If the cover is also quite awesome, I might flip it open. If it doesn't have this (or I haven't heard of it), odds are I'm going to leave it where I found it.

I think it's this point (where I flip open the book) that many authors get more hung up than they should. If I'm going to spend my money on a book, that decision is not hinged on that first sentence. Given enough time and money, anybody would write a zingy, catchy first sentence. It says nothing about the skill of the author if your first sentence is clever. A first chapter (or first three-four pages) would be a much better assessment.

I will admit a clever first sentence has a pull that one can't explain. Even I experience it. However, I'll never stop reading a book I'm interested in if the first sentence isn't catchy, but I might read more of a book if the first sentence is really grabby. I think of Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia and how it snagged me because of the first sentence. I gave it more of a chance (I'm not a huge gun nut, so I wasn't sure how the book would appeal to me) because that first sentence was a witty, clever hook. Would I have still tried out the book if the first sentence has been dull? Yes. But I wouldn't have had that little happy "zing!" that pushed me to like it a little further.

I'd argue that your cover, title, and first page/chapter are what sells a reader, as well as your blurb on the back/side. Yes, the first sentence is important, but it really isn't all that fantastic as people crank it up to be.

That being said, BRIEF TANGENT: I think titles are super-important. This is mostly because this is one of the few things the author has actual control of that goes on the outside (jacket) of the novel (besides their name). Other people draw maps, cover art, sometimes edit your blurbs for the back, etc. But the TITLE is yours. Yeah, sometimes they want you to edit it, but it really is your only possession.

Which is why a lot of the time it takes me a while to craft titles. Paradise Seekers is one so far that I actually don't really like the title. An idea I had originally was Thanatophobia (Fear of Death), or Somniphobia (Fear of Sleep). In the end, both didn't really work for a YA novel, and Paradise Seekers alone has enough hidden subtleties to work. It isn't Where Gods and Mortals Dance, The Reigns of the World, or Lacrymosa, but it works.

I also hate Harbinger's title, but I have no idea what to do with that anyway.

END TANGENT

This blog post is coming from a consumer, who had to spend a good hour in Barnes and Noble last week figuring out how to spend a gift card.

The moral of the story is Writing Excuses is wrong, and I'm clearly right. Because it's my blog and I say so. (Don't I wish... :P)

BONUS!

I often envision title art for novels as I write them, and I can say my tastes lean towards minimalistic. Maybe I'll do a blog post on it sometime, with which covers are my favorites and which I find to be kind of...lacking.

At any rate, it would be interesting (assuming any of this crap I write ever gets published) to see what a publishing house would like to put on as a cover. Considering my incredibly picky tastes, I'd probably hate just about everything, but something about a cover seems to be meant to convey the soul of the novel (ones that just show a single scene picked from the book frustrate me). So, in that regard, I've always felt that minimalistic covers work (I hate to say this, but Twilight had an extremely clever and well-chosen cover. Too bad whatever cleverness or symbolism was found in the first cover was completely lost in the sequels).

Cover ideas for my books!
Lacrymosa - This was actually a game before, and we made a title screen (which I have somewhere) which I liked. A single white feather, lying on a ground of black, with the title above it.
Harbinger - No idea, actually. I never thought about this one. Probably a character montage, honestly.
Where Gods and Mortals Dance - Similar to Lacrymosa, except replace the feather with one of the pear/teardrop shaped masks the gods wear. You know, the thing could just be lying there.
Paradise Seekers - This one's easy, the silhouette of a tire swing against a setting sun. If you REALLY wanted to add something, you could put a boy and a girl hand in hand off in the distance, but the tire swing would be in the foreground still.

Yeah, it's self centered to make you read this, but it's my blog so ha ha ha. Anybody else think of covers for their books as they are writing them?

WEEKLY WORD COUNT - Week of June 27 - July 4

on Monday, July 5, 2010

Week Dates: 6/27 - 7/4, 2010.
Word Count This Week (Effulgent Corruption): ~2,000.
Word Count This Week (Other; Writing Exercise): ~2,000
Words Total for Effulgent Corruption: 6,881

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Excerpts from this week: 

“There is some strength to him, though,” the voice was feminine and unfamiliar, coming from behind the large man blocking the doorway. Drake saw a slim figure step into the room, holding the bright torch. Drake blinked, rubbing his eyes with a dirty, unfeeling hand in an attempt to see. The corruption marks on both his hands glowed quietly; the left one blue, the other red, though they didn’t seem to emit any light on the nearby walls. The woman’s eyes shone a brilliant pale aqua in the torchlight. It was then Drake realized that she wasn’t holding a torch in her hand; it was her palm itself that was illuminated and sending flickering flames up her fingertips. Her hand was dark black, and Drake could see the weaving lines of corruption, like grasping vines, had crept up her wrists. They continued up to where the sleeve of her robe lay, about halfway up her forearm. The woman looked Drake up and down as of considering an animal for purchase, eyes sparkling in her created firelight.

- Effulgent Corruption, Chapter 2 - Prisoner

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Well, I haven't done one of these in a while. This is only about two days worth of writing; the rest of the week was spent planning or doing school (which I'm still doing). 

Effulgent Corruption is crawling its way back to life from the gutter, and hopefully we'll see more of it shortly. I'm still shooting for 1k a day minimum, even though I have two tests this week and have been stressing out over those. Plus, we are getting ready to move, which will take up a decent chunk of time. 

The general idea is I'm under-motivated in nearly every regard concerning writing. No idea what this slump is (especially since the transition from WGMD to Paradise Seekers was so smooth...sort of), but I'm going to keep writing until I kill it. 

I also wrote an epic fantasy this week starring poodles and cats. Pretty much I wrote it like it was epic fantasy, except they were all fuzzy animals and had lame names like "Fluffypaws" or something. It was entertaining. Maybe I'll post it here so everybody can see how completely stupid it is. That sounds like a great idea. 

At any rate, I'm reading Dresden, doing school, writing, and playing xbox when I get stressed. Yep, that's about it. Happy 4th (or 5th now) of July and all that, and I'll see you next week. 

BOOK REVIEW - Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher

By Jim Butcher (Official Webpage)
Buy it here: Proven Guilty

Blurb Review


While it might not be Harry Dresden vs The World like previous installments, Proven Guilty is easily the best book yet, with how it focuses more on "close to home" problems for Harry rather than larger, broader issues. Combining real, raw emotion with moral dilemmas that help define Harry, Proven Guilty has that rewarding feeling you can only get on long book series like this.

Full Review


This is probably my favorite Dresden book yet, passing Death Masks up, if just barely. As I said in previous reviews. Grave Peril was where Butcher essentially goes action crazy, and Summer Knight is the slower, more methodical version of Harry Dresden. It showed both sides of Butcher's writing, tons of action or lots of emotion, and the books since have been trying to find that magical hybrid that would make them perfect.

Dead Beat was extremely close, even though the first bits were slow. But with Proven Guilty, Butcher has completely nailed it. This is exactly the type of book I was thinking of reading when I first went into the series: great action, real emotion, exciting characters I cared and worried about, and moral dilemmas that shape Harry as a character, as well as the people around him. Also, we finally have Murphy and Harry talking about their "relationship" (or lack thereof) which this series has needed since like the second book.

The book also has the best first chapter, I think, of any of the books so far. Harry Dresden is now enlisted as a Warden of the White Council (he was last book, actually), because their war against the vampires has thinned their ranks so much they need all the help they can get. The book begins with a grisly execution of a young teenaged warlock, a boy who unwittingly used black magic. In the White Council's laws, you don't get a second chance (though Harry did, years before), and so he is executed.

As you can guess, this doesn't sit well with Harry, and it sets the tone for the rest of the book. Dark, personal, and full of moral conflict. The book is a rich adventure that puts the characters you've grown to know and care about to their limits.

It also has Michael, my favorite character in it. Actually, the majority of the book revolves around his wayward daughter, Molly, who has gotten herself into more than she can handle.

Seeking out a dark wizard, Harry ends up at SPLATTERCON!!!!, a horror convention partially run by Molly. It is there that they are attacked by monstrous creatures, being of fairy who feed on terror. Harry figures someone must be summoning them, so off he goes to try and figure it out.

Add tons of twisting subplots involving the Red Court, the continuing conflict between Winter and Summer (the fairy realms), and Molly just being a problem child, and you have a fantastic book. While the conclusion isn't as balls-to-the-wall as some others, (Harry riding a zombie T-Rex or fighting a Fallen Angel on the top of a speeding train comes to mind) it is on a more personal level, one that rakes up the tension and really just works. I've never felt more attached to Harry as a character until now, and I really haven't seen his "true colors" (surprise, he's a really good person) until he's thrown into the fire like this. I couldn't put the book down, literally, it was so good.

I really can't think of anything I didn't like about this novel. There was a lack of Butters, who I don't like, so that works. Michael was in it, albeit at the end. You finally figure out why Charity, Michael's wife, totally despises Harry. Actually, that's another good thing: both Charity and Murphy were being close to becoming two-dimensional. This book totally fixes that, and in the best way. Really good stuff.

So, yeah. I'd say this is the perfect Dresden book (if only it had more Michael...). After inventing me in seven of these books, I can say that this (the eighth) is exactly what I've come to expect. Here's hoping the last four can live up to that expectation (I can't believe I have only four left! What am I going to do with my life after I finish this?!).