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Writing Rules Redeem

A few writers are gifted like Stephen King. They seem to have the instincts from the get-go, like a person born gifted with seemingly embedded musical talent. So when gifted people like that say there are no rules to storytelling, it seems valid to them and the folks seeking wisdom on how to be as good as King go looking for inspiration rather than perspiration. When King sits down and just writes, it’s not, of course, me just sitting down to write. I was born with a desire to tell stories and play guitar but not the inborn talent. I had to work on it and that’s my lot in life, to perspire and agonize and strive for excellence. I accept it. For me rules are the way. And I cling to quotes like this one attributed to Mozart, “Genius is only a great aptitude for patience.” But, with that said, even Stephen King and Mozart adhere to rules, King to the plot point and Mozart to the beat. No matter who writes the book or composes a symphony there is certain criteria that must be met or most people won’t care about the disjointed story or discordant notes. Rules redeem.

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Blood & Soul Back of the Book Story Description

So you’re clicking through the books on Amazon or reading the back of a book in a bookstore and you read this story description:

A powerful spell banished demons to the Underworld ages ago. Now they gather seething for slaughter beneath an ancient portal. Prophesy says that sacrificing the king of the Midvast on a day shrouded in mystery will free Quuma’s demonic horde. Erupting from the portal their shades will become flesh, unleashed to quench their lust for human suffering and death. The reek of ruin will cover the land as it did before the spell.

Ledarrin is the bastard prince of the Midvast living in the shadows of a revered dynasty. In spite of his lineage, he’s the favored son of the king. Mathagel, the pureblood son, usurps the throne in fear of losing his birthright. He throws Ledarrin into a dungeon to be executed soon for crimes against the realm. Ledarrin escapes amid clashing factions. The survival of the realm seems lost.

Pursued by a legendary assassin Ledarrin begins a heart-pounding adventure across formidable wilderness into a deadly future he has yet to understand; a journey marked by lost love, seduction, betrayal and battle leading him to discover the challenges of his true identity. He’s quest is joined by aging warriors, unlikely allies and a heretic rumored to have knowledge of ancient scrolls, the Creed of Kings, that will thwart Quuma’s plans. It will change everything he has ever believed about the gods and his future. To save his father and the future of the realm, he must forge a new path free from the shadows of a dynasty, into light, away from his blood and into his soul.

Help me! I tried to keep it simple. That’s about the 10th draft! Boiling down a 166K word epic into 259 words is challenging. But does this zing?

Writing a Book: Major Steps and Practical Concerns As Publishing Nears

Made a major step in preparing Blood & Soul for the final pass for my editor. He loved reading it the first time and with his suggestions and edits it improved even more. My yeahbabyb&Seditor and I are contemplating the services of a proof reader. The reason? The book is 160,000 words. We need another pair of eyes for a product that is so epic. Of course, looking for typos is a must but also things like consistency – is this east or west, is it cloudy or sunny, is the secret entrance on the west side or the east side of the wall, did he or she really say that earlier? You’d be surprised what you can forget about a book you wrote yourself.

When you change a character’s name in a 160k word manuscript you will inevitably miss a spot and leave the old name in somewhere. I typed the main character’s name 1256 times. But even a supporting “actor” gets a lot of space and the minor characters sprinkled throughout a 160k words can be missed very easily for a good reason. Even using the “find and replace” feature in MS Word won’t catch everything because you might have misspelled the name you’re replacing once or twice and the feature will miss those. That will derail the reader who’ll be trying to figure out what the heck happened. There’s a zillion little things like that. And, that’s why a fresh pair of eyes is NEEDED. It can become very tedious and fatigue can set in. It’s the difference between a Frankenstein and phenomenon.

 

 

Thinking I’ll write a Novella

February 24, 2014 2 comments

What do you think? As Blood & Soul creeps every closer to being unleashed on the public, I’ve begun to outline the next book in the saga – the working title is “Out of Oblivion” – and yes! it is epic and awesome or I would not be writing it.

During a meeting with my good friend Dale Young, he suggested I write a short story or a novella from the same world but outside the series of books I have planned. The purpose being to give it away either by publishing it or getting people to sign up on my blog/website for a series of entries and give readers a taste of my style.

The story won’t be drummed up just for promo purposes. I already have two stories within the world of the Creed of Kings Saga that I’ve been chewing for quite sometime. I have a full time job so it takes me a long time to generate a solid story. I have confidence that both of these stories are compelling enough and should be written at some point. Both have great concepts.But one of my worries is that it will sprawl into yet another epic as I strive for awesome.

Bottom line is I’m giving the idea of writing a short story or novella serious thought. If I can control myself and keep it simple, it would also help with a feeling of accomplishment. It would be gratifying to actually write and publish another story fairly quickly. Let me know what do you think?

What’s it About?

January 30, 2014 Leave a comment

In updating about my book, I’ve never posted much about the story itself. I will tell you girls out there it has love and longing and

Style: "Wizards"

romance. Don’t think for one second that us guys don’t like that stuff, it just has to be done right, without the sap. I would not call it a family adventure. The story deals with some pretty brutal stuff. Would it be a date movie? Oh yeah! There is stuff in it for guys and girls. There is a lead male and a strong female character.

MV5BMTIwODk0NzQzNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTEzOTc0MQ@@._V1_SX214_The only thing that comes close to the feel of it, and still way off, is a mix of Gladiator, Memoirs of a Geisha and Lord of the Rings. The look of it is late BC or early middle Ages with a Romanesque setting. I love historical fiction before gun-powder and it’s had a great influence on me. So the style of fantasy is what readers would call realism or hard-fantasy because it’s a logically consistent world that I made up as in A Game of Thrones or Wizards First Rule or Lord of the Rings.

It’s not an airy fairy silly romp with leprechauns and smurfs – a pox be upon them! It feels realistic and there is only a touch of fantasy but even that is linked to spiritualism and not potions brewed by witches. Gods and Goddesses are worshiped and there is human sacrifice, diverse peoples and religions populate the story along with some exotic beasts both good and evil. The main characters are searching to discover their purpose in life…and that’s as far as I will go for now.

The theme is embedded in the title, BLOOD & SOUL. The theme was inspired by one of my deeply held beliefs. But I handle the

Creed of Kings Saga BannerBandSsmall

theme with a light touch. It’s not preachy at all. I strove to give the reader poignant emotional moments along with thrills, tension and suspense. Anyway …I need to get busy as I’m working on the final draft.

Use Your Muse Before She Moves

January 11, 2014 3 comments

Linda_HarrisonA few years ago, when I finally SAW my Muse she dressed in worn comfy denim. She had gossamer wings. She looked just like Nova (Linda Harrison) from that old Planet of Apes original, her dark hair silky and shining. Every golden morning my Muse would hover at my bedside and awaken me with angelic ethereal humming. Dazed and inspired, I would rise and scurry off to my bus route. Afterward, I would take her hand like a ritual. She would lead me to a local diner or coffee house, and sit me down, and turn on my laptop with a missing left “enter” key. While it booted up she would pass the time pouring me honeyed coffee. She would bring it to me, and curl up on the monitor and purr rhythmically, playing songs by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard into my headphones. The sound of her purring and my fingers waltzing on the keyboard was like the sweet roll of distant thunder and a warm graceful mist washing over us through the middle of the day. In the early afternoon I would look up from my laptop and stretch, and whisper thanks to her, and wander off to drive a school bus, my mind full of visions.

Then due to circumstances beyond my control I had to switch jobs and writing became inconvenient and impossible in the midst of the day. She went into a Relocation Program for orphaned muses. I never heard from her again. Maybe you have seen her? For all I know she whispering music into your ear and filling your mind with visions. Don’t waste her inspiration. As soon as you exit Facebook begin your own epic novel, dear reader.

I had to adapt. I petitioned for another Muse for evenings and weekends. The one that showed up looked the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Desperate, I girldragontatopened the door and let her in. She chain smokes Marlboro reds. She wears thick mascara and re-dyes her hair black weekly. She has sixty-six piercings—that I know of—and some I dare not ask about. One arm is sleeved-out in tattoos. She has a Ph.D in German Literature and refuses to purr. She prefers leather to denim, likes fishnet everything. She clipped her wings. From her pale neck on separate chains dangle hundreds of religious icons, peace symbols, and skulls. She reads “the lost works,” just to taunt me and quotes Nietzsche and Rousseau. She listens to Lady Gaga, the Ramones and Johnny Cash and Mozart and the Lower Chakras and drives a black hearse with a pink stripe. She speaks English with a French accent. She refuses to pour me coffee and spills her own on my papers. She never visits, I have to summon her. When she comes she’s often high and drunk, daring me to judge.

I’m not dumping her. I fear what I would get as a replacement this time. So I have the romantic memory of the one before and the reality of the next. – Inspired by a book I just read. Write Your Heart Out by Geoff Schmidt

The Grindstone

I’ve barely scratched the surface refining this final draft of Blood & Soul. Although I think this story is solid and I’m enthusiastic, refining it to perfection is going to be epic in itself. It is incredibly tedious and time consuming.grindstone

Imagine approving 32,754 punctuation changes in a 158K word document – things like changing from one style of quote (“) to another or approving the deletion of a space or the insertion of one. 705 pages of New Courier font and 750 comments in the side panel, half of them related to format changes from standard to italics. The other half of comments noting inconsistencies or suggestions on info in a paragraph of narration. My editor also caught sentences sprinkled throughout the epic draft left over from the previous versions. I suspected it would be there. It will require a lot “rewiring” so to speak to get everything just right.

As I go through this I sometimes wish I was as nerdy (and I mean that in a good way) or exacting as my editor. It boggles my mind to think he enjoys this. It’s like he is responsible for the training of an athlete. I have the muse and he’s got the mallet that knocks me back to my senses.

Back to the grindstone.

I Ain’t George R. R. Martin, but…

September 21, 2013 4 comments
A Game of Thrones (comic book)

A Game of Thrones (comic book) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve written over a million words in the last few years about stories within this exotic world that I’ve been building. I’ve learned about a thousand lessons, many brutal. Some lessons seem impossible to learn, like not leaving words out. So much has been learned that is far more valuable than my seemingly inborn weaknesses and sins of the past, like not learning grammar better in school. Will I ever stop typing “where” when I mean “were”?

Blunt realizations ignite my desire to learn. Pains are felt at that moment but extend through the corrections of an epic saga. In the world of story-telling that pain is agonizing when you realize you have made a huge bungle.

I crossed the finish line of my first epic fantasy Creed of Kings in 2010. As I started my first editing process ever, I was clueless. I had written a wilderness and every insignificant weed was known by a pretty sentence. Despite this, and to my pleasant surprise, some friends enjoyed part one of that epic. But this “finished” thing was huge with parts two and three. I had an epic inner conflict. I felt it was too big and complicated to appeal to the masses from an unknown author. I felt lost and a bit depressed. Then I found Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. It changed everything. He became my wilderness guide, my Gandalf. I dove into his book and fully embraced his approach.

Brooks helped me discover why the portrait I wanted to paint looked more like Jack, of Jack in the Box instead of the Mona Lisa I had imagined. Though this was a brutal realization, I also renewed my confidence. Reading that book helped me grasp the talent I felt I had. It’s like I had a strong but dull blade of steel before Story Engineering helped me put grips and guards in the write place (pun intended) and sharpen the edge of my sword pen. It felt like I had cheat notes. I started afresh on editing the book I had “finished.” Then the next hard lesson came.

I had ignored the impact of Kindle and Nook on the publishing world in those early days of the e-book revolution. After previously swearing to never self-publish, I thought it was vain and egotistical, I decided to give it a second thought. After lots of reading and inner debate, I decided on self-publishing. I swore I would not compromise quality. I would not just fling it up on the wall and see what sticks. Along with that decision a lot of additional concerns surfaced, writer’s platform, hiring an editor, serious website, paying for a pro book cover etc. One virtually becomes the only employee of a mini publishing company. I can’t just fling that up on the wall either.

I restarted with the intent of self-publishing a massive ongoing saga over a period of years. My new goal is to write shorter books. I reexamined the book I had “finished,” Creed of Kings. Opportunities were there for more books. It was 160,000 words. Too big! I swore to write a less complicated better story. With Larry’s book to guide me, renewed confidence and updated knowledge of self-publishing, I outlined Blood & Soul and two other follow-up books that preceded Creed of Kings (I’ve also outlined two books beyond Creed of Kings). In the spring of 2011 I began the initial writings of Blood & Soul and finished the seventh draft on September 15, 2013. It’s 159,493 words long!

I’m agonizing over that word count. I didn’t know it was that long. The average word count on a novel is around 80K to 100K. Fantasy can be 100K to 120k. George R. R. Martin’s book Game of Thrones dwarfs mine. It’s a door stopper at 284K. But on many levels, I ain’t George!

I don’t know what I can cut. I may take another quick read through it and slash and burn sentences in an effort to shorten the book without compromising the story.

In my defense, there are a lot of characters but not near as many as in Martin’s. Mine is an epic quest and return. It is the set-up for an epic saga. I don’t need to slash and burn sentences. I could probably just slice away more fat. Martin’s Game of Thrones on Kindle downloads for $9.99. Blood & Soul will download for $4.99. So, I only need to prove I’m half as good as Martin!

Are you as concerned about word count as I am?

Blood & Soul Closer to Publishing

September 15, 2013 Leave a comment

I’ve been staying away from facebook and blogging as I was days beyond the goal of finishing my project on Aug 31. Today, I crossed the finish line on the 7th draft. My first heroic fantasy, Blood & Soul, is complete!

It’s a standalone novel that launches an epic series I’ve dubbed, The Creed of Kings Saga. Technically you might say it’s in the can, meaning all the parts are there and in order. It needs buffing and finishing. That’s where my test readers come in. It’s like a concept airplane sitting in the hanger waiting for test pilots.
A lot of my friends and net-friends i.e. facebook friends, have been asking to read it. You’ll have to wait a little while longer. I’m taking a break for a couple of weeks to begin projects related to promoting my book: what you would call an author’s platform, which I already have the basic design in place.
When I return to Blood & Soul it will be to convert it to an e-book so I can cheaply distribute it to my “test pilots.” I’ll give those brave souls instructions at that time.
Then there is even more work for me! I can probably go public with the book by late Nov or Dec. But, I decided to wait until Jan of 2014.

Chart the Course to the End

I will never write another book…that I don’t thoroughly outline first! The yet-to-be-fully-edited book I “finished” two years ago was my first venture into epic fantasy. I did everything wrong. I started out trying to write pretty sentences on the first page and had no idea where I was going.

With Blood & Soul (the first in what will be a series of standalone books called The Creed of Kings Saga) I settled down a lot and worked on the story first by outlining, but things still got way way too complicated as my imagination chased rabbits way off the trail. I did an outline. I kind of knew where I was going but not completely. Things cannot be fuzzy when I start off. As Stephen Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind[!]” Have a vision and gather all your strengths and resources around a mission to get there–that goes for business and books.

Thus, I will never write another book…without doing an outline and knowing the ending. I nailed the ending on the 5th Revision. If I had it sooner, I might be done now! As it stands now I have a lot of false trails to sever as I approach the end of Blood & Soul.

Trim cheesy fat. Build emotional muscle.

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