Revisiting older work

With Wine Bottles and Broomsticks entering the long and epic end-game of writing a book, my extreme sense of procrastination is starting to kick in. Aside from mocking up fake magic cards and poking about with a program I’ve been working on, I’ve started thinking seriously about other stories. While I want to, want to work on the sequel to Wine Bottles and Broomsticks, I just can’t seem to stay focused. Part of that probably has to do with a healthy dose of self-doubt about Wine Bottles. I mean, just because I think it’s a good book and that everyone should read it doesn’t mean anyone ever will. One of those avenues of procrastination happens to be my last attempt at a novel.

The War of Shadows was the first book I’d actually completed. I even proudly sent it out to beta readers. As these things tend to go with first books, my friends mostly finished it and had encouraging things to say. However, the truth of the matter is that the book sucked, something my wife tried to say in constructive terms. The idea that it was broken finally started sinking in last summer. I don’t know that it’s broken beyond repair, but it was pretty clearly beyond my skill to correct. The core (not the entire) problem was the two main characters and especially the main character. They were bland, weak, and had no chemistry. Some of the other characters are a bit better, but in general they’re bad. My conclusion? I’m awful with characters and character arcs.

With that failure solidly under my belt back in August, I decided to take a short break from revising my broken book and work on a concept that came to me after a flippant remark. The phrase ‘The problem with witch hunts is that sometimes you find one’ actually comes from something I told someone. I’m not sure how a sentence can become a book, but there it is. This story quickly became my main writing focus, almost to the exclusion of everything else in life. What’s the main strength of Wine Bottles? Ironically, it’s the characters. This has made me revisit the conclusion that I can’t write good characters. In fact I can do it, furthermore, I knew what was necessary to fix it, but I couldn’t seem to make it work. This was, of course, because much of the action surrounding the main character was built according to his reactions, which meant a full and complete re-write of the book, something I didn’t want to do. Now I’ve finished a second book, I actually WANT to to rewrite it. I want to make that character the way he should be. Having concluded a character arc, I can see how it’s supposed to work and I’m ready to tackle it again.

In fact, I’ve already started. On Thursday night I crawled into bed, exhausted and ready for the day to be over only to be drawn to my iPad, where I clacked out the new start to the book. I only made it five-hundred words in before calling it a night, but the gauntlets were off. I’m going to completely gut and re-write the book. So far, I can say that this is much, much easier than the first time. I’m about half-way through the new first chapter and while it’s still rough (it is a draft), it’s a million times better and the characters are already more interesting and likable.

What’s interesting to me about this is that I didn’t stop writing or take a ton of classes, and I didn’t pick up dozens of books to carefully study them for techniques on how to bring out a strong character. No, I kept writing. I wrote something different, something that was supposed to be a throw-away, not a serious effort. You know what? I learned something. Not only did I learn more about how to put a story together, but I also learned about my own writing style. Just playing to my strengths has made the process of writing much more enjoyable and move along much faster. I may still have a lot to learn, but I’m now much, much further along than I was last year at this time.

Now I’m off to work on that first chapter again. Hopefully, it’ll make for a readable book this time.

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Progress Report

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I feel like I should do this more often, but I’m not sure I’d say too much that was useful. As it is, I don’t know that I’ve had anything to say in a while. All that said, it’s been a couple of weeks since I declared Draft #1 of Wine Bottles & Broomsticks fully drafted. What has been amazing to me in the past few weeks has been the response from beta readers to the book. Not only have all of them actually finished the book, they’ve all done so quickly and provided phenomenal feedback. I spent a half an hour on the phone with my sister this evening discussing character motivation and her general reaction to the book.

Where do I stand right now? First off, I want to say that writing this story was exceptionally fast. The bulk of it was actually written during free time on two trips out of state for training. So, basically 40% of the book was written over the course of less than 2 weeks. With that in mind, I’m aiming (probably optimistically) at having a fully expanded, edited draft ready by the end of the month. This is possible largely because virtually all of the readers thus far have provided feedback that hits the same spots – ‘expand this’ ‘what about that’ and so on. So, now I’ve got a plan to expand the manuscript from just shy of 60K to near 80K. In the mean-time, the channillo.com will continue on with the early draft and probably sometime on Sunday, I’ll turn up the crank to release a chapter a week for a while, then maybe up to a chapter a day. Then, I’ll let it sit out there for a few weeks.

My goal is to have this thing ready for a copy editor roll over it sometime early in February. Then, I guess I’ll see if I can drum up any interest from a publisher. If not, well, I’ve got cover art and the book will have been edited, so self-publishing it is.

First draft of a second book

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I know I said I was going to update this blog more often a few weeks ago, then didn’t. Well, I got busy. With the end of the year on me, I started to feel the press of time with respect to my second book (which is the first in a series). Oddly enough, I never intended it to be a book. Really, I was just aiming at writing practice.

Earlier this year, I think June? I finished the first full draft of an epic fantasy novel and sent it out to beta readers. The feedback was very positive, but pointed out a lot of problems. Problems that are likely beyond my skill to fix, just now. So, I set it aside in order to focus on more immediate issues, like making sure I was still employed come August and the ducks had a place to live before the snow hit the ground. However, at about the end of July a funny thing happened. In a non-writing related conversation with a friend, I said: “You know, the funny thing about witch hunts is that sometimes you find one.” Well, that was it. It grabbed my attention. Then, perhaps a few days later I got a DM from someone telling me I should write a series on Channillo.com. I concluded that it would be something to try, so I sat down to see what my silly little quote might turn in to.

At first, I wasn’t really sure, except that I liked the concept and characters. Since I was putting this out for sale right away, I decided a nice book cover was in order, so I bought one. Unfortunately, I bought one that didn’t quite match what I had in mind, so given that I had a cover and no story, I wrote enough of the story to fit the cover. Much cheaper than spending a lot of cash on a custom cover for a book I wasn’t even sure would be a book!

For about the first chapter, I figured that if I made sure I was doing a chapter every 3 weeks or so, I could satisfy my Channillo.com goals and also be done with a draft sometime next spring. Yeah, that pretty much didn’t happen. I mean, it did at first, but that second chapter was written the day before my self-imposed due date. I don’t like operating that way, so I set out to write several more chapters, just so I was a little ahead. Then, I went to Kansas City for training, which was cool. Spent all day training, then socialized with co-workers for a while, but I still had hours to myself. So, I sat down to write. I think I knocked out 3 1/2 chapters that week alone (~12K words), My pace slowed a bit in November because of the great programming distraction of NaNoWriMo 2015, but picked up again after I went to Orlando for more training in early December. That time, my pace was more like 2~3 chapters. In any case, I plowed on through December until Christmas day when I sat down to organize a handful of content that had gotten out of order and didn’t fit properly into the timeline. Turns out it wasn’t that far off and a little manipulation put it close. So, yesterday, after getting back home, I realized I was maybe a chapter or two off of hitting the end of the first full draft – so I sat down with my Christmas coffee and went to town.

You know what? I got it. Today I went back over the second half of the book and concluded I needed feedback and to set it down for a while. So. there it is. My second full-draft book is complete – yes loads of work to be done, but the bulk of the story is there, and in only 5 months. Needless to say, I’m over the moon with myself. So what am I going to do with myself while I cool off from Wine Bottles and Broomsticks? Write book 2, of course.

Also – if you’re interested, you can hit http://www.Channillo.com to subscribe and check the series out. In January, I’m going to release one chapter a month. Once it’s all out there, it’ll be on Channillo for a month, then poof – gone. You’ll have to wait until I can figure out how to get it published.