Writing backwards

Book Two’s plotted. The synopses of each POV are written, organized, re-organized and placed where they need to be.

Thanks to my editor, I’ve adopted a typical structure for BK2: opening, inciting event, act one: problem, act two: choice,  act two: disaster, act three: plan, climax, wrap-up. In BK1, I stumbled into that structure. I’m glad to be doing it consciously now.

In Scrivener I’ve created the above structure as folders and then within those folders I created text files with the relevant portion of the POV plot synopsis. For example:

  • Opening / Frigg; Odin; Loki
  • Inciting Event / Frigg; Odin; Loki
  • etc.

Once I did all that, I realized — to my horror — that the first half of the book was horribly broken because the timing of plot events didn’t line up.

For example, Loki’s inciting event is the “act two: choice” for Odin & Frigg. And, the “midpoint: reversal” for all three POVs is the same — but then the “act two: disaster” is different for all three POVs.

So, I took a week and dived into reorganizing the first half of the book. The way it stands now is that the main plot points in the first half of the book are offset a bit. I hope it works.

I’ve been able to start writing which means that my subconscious is currently okay with the new structure. (For me, “writer’s block” means there’s something broken in the book and I can’t write until I find and fix the problem.)

Now that writing’s (re)commenced I’m pretty happy with where I’m at. BK2 is tightly focused on Odin, Frigg and Loki — those are the only POVs, so I’m hoping to really improve their voices and the theme driving each individual plot.

I also think I found the above errors because I was working backward through the book. I would’ve found them going the other direction, but probably not for another month and ~30K words later.

And given that I’m about a month behind where I wanted to be, these next few months are crunch time. November might actually be my first NaNoWriMo.

Book Two…progressing slowly

I’m still iterating on outlines, character goals, motivations, conflicts, etc. So far its looking like BK2 (actual title tbd) will focus on Frigg, Odin and Loki. Loki may end up being the one who ties the book together.

The above actually represents a change of plans. Originally, both Vafthrudnir and Vidar were going to be in BK2 as POVs. Now they won’t be, largely because their POVs aren’t integral to the core story in BK2.

I’d also been planning to use Hermod as my POV for the journey into Helheim, but now she’s out. One reason is that her character arc hit a wall at the “midpoint reversal.” I didn’t have a plan for what to do with her afterward. And everything I’d come up with felt forced, weak and trite…and not terribly relevant to BK2’s core story.

Another key reason for eliminating three POVs is that I need/want BK2 to be shorter. I don’t have time to write another 175K book, not if I want to get BK2 out by next fall.

My word count goal for BK2 is 100K max. I should be able to write that by year-end particularly given all the planning/outlining that I’ll start with and the bunch of scenes I already have to work with. Even so, meeting my Jan 2 deadline’s gonna be tight. I’m also horribly out of practice with respect to sitting down and actually writing.

I’ve also been thinking about spin-off / related novels. These would focus on characters and storylines that I’ve cut from the first couple books. They’d be about 50K words long at most and tell the story of one character — Hyrrokin, as one example.

She’s one of my favorite characters but, like Hermod, she just wasn’t integral to the books. But telling Hyrrokin’s story will shed a lot of light on why the Jotunn are doing what they’re doing. And, she’s cool.

I figure I can do the same with Vidar’s plot in BK2, Hermod’s and maybe Vaft’s. Maybe these end up being freebie short stories, too. I’m not sure yet. A lot of that depends on how much time I can dedicate to them…and how good their standalone stories end up being.

Regardless, my goal remains: BK2 by fall 2018; BK3 by fall 2019. I’ll have some breathing room by then.

 

 

And still proofing…

So my “early August” release is slipping to “mid August” release. Over the past couple (three?) weeks I’ve been proofing my book.

Here’s what I did:

  1. Uploaded the book to Createspace; generated & downloaded a PDF proof
  2. I’m reading the PDF on my ‘puter with the MS Word file open at the same time. If I find a mistake or something I really, really can’t live with, then I change it on the spot.
  3. Then I make a note of what I changed in a text file. On the next proof (yes, there will be one), I will specifically check the stuff that I changed.

That final proof will be in Vellum (the software I’m using to format the ebook & print version). There’s a “preview” feature in the software that lets you see what the book will look like on a Kindle, Nook, etc. I’ll proof it that way rather than in Word or PDF again.

Once everything is as clean and correct as I can possibly make it, then I’ll upload the final files, change the launch date on Amazon & let ‘er rip.

Middle of August, I swear.

 

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The photo above is another I took at Glacier Bay in Alaska. You can see one of the glaciers on the far left.

 

BK2 just got real(er)

Just signed the contract with my editor to deliver BK2 on Jan 2, 2018. And then I scheduled delivery of my revised BK2 manuscript for April 26.

For some reason I’m more nervous about committing to that second date than the first. Maybe it’s because I know how much effort went into the BK1 revisions.

My editor’s also offered me a new service — it’s an iterative process designed to identify and resolve manuscript issues (plot, theme, characters, etc.) prior to my delivery of the first manuscript. I’m thinking it’ll help especially since I’m trying to move from “pants-ing” to outlining.

In other news:

  • Just got back from a cool vacation — an Alaskan cruise. The image above is a photo I took of the main glacier in Glacier Bay. Pretty damn incredible. Mountains, glaciers, fjords, open water, temperate rain forest — all excellent fodder for my books.
  • I have a handful of pre-orders. I wasn’t expecting any, so it’s cool to see folks interested.
  • My Amazon ad campaign is hilarious — 2,200 impressions and 4 clicks. I’m pretty sure that’s terrible. But, I’m only running it to see what happens b/c I have no idea what I’m doing. I need some kinda baseline.
  • My cover artist is awesome. Way back in February he said he’d do my print cover once I got him the necessary copy. I dropped the ball b/c reasons. I emailed him before I left for vacation & he said yep, offer stands, so I should have my print cover this week or next. Then I upload that sucker to Createspace and figure that thing out.
  • I’ve been very slightly tweaking my BK1 manuscript over the past couple weeks. I’m not making major edits, just correcting a few things here and there and trying to read it for consistency & continuity.

Once I get through BK1 and have all the pieces in place and finalized, I’ll officially launch the book and put it out of mind.

Gotta focus on BK2 to meet those deadlines.

Pre-order is live!

So, yeah, it’s very weird to see my book up on Amazon.

The Sept 26 date is just to give me plenty of time to completely finalize the book. I’ll release it at the beginning of August.

I put the preorder up for a few reasons:

  • I’m on vacation for the next 10ish days so I figured why not. And where I’m going I won’t have much Internet access so I won’t be able to obsessively check it. Which is good b/c there’s unlikely to be many preorders.
  • Any preorders that do roll in can help the “also boughts” populate in advance of the actual launch.
  • Get me used to the idea of BK1 being done. There’s a certain comfort in saying “it’s almost ready” versus “you can buy it now” — and then waiting to be damned with faint praise. Or awful reviews =D

In launching now I’m also ignoring advice I’ve gleaned by listening to multiple author-focused podcasts: Launch a full series all at once or one book right after the other, spaced out by about three weeks in between.

I’m ignoring that advice b/c I don’t have a full series (yet!) and it’ll take another two years to write & publish the next two books — assuming all goes as planned. I also need feedback from the market. Do most readers like the book? What can I improve? What can I do more of? What might I want to do less of?

Regardless of how this book does or what’s said about it (if anything), my best course is to keep on writing. So, onward!

Making progress

This morning my proofreader sent back the corrected manuscript. It’s pretty clean so it won’t take that long to finalize (ideally). Early August is still looking good for the launch.

In the past month I’ve been outlining and re-outlining BK2. I want to avoid the cycle of “rip apart, re organize, re do” that I experienced in writing BK1. Most of that was just being a new author and trying to figure out how to write a book.

Regardless, I want to avoid that on BK2 so I planning the book down to the scene before I start writing. Granted I have about 30K words already written, but much of that is gonna get thrown out. This is what I want prevent moving forward.

This is probably too much detail, but here’s my current outlining process:

  • Open the manuscript for BK2 in Scrivener; Get out my trusty notebook & pencil.
  • Outline in the notebook by POV and day.
    • I have my manuscript organized by Day — 17 through 28 in this case. Each day is further divided into morning, afternoon and evening. Each scene is placed in one of those folders.
    • Each scene is a POV. I color code each POV so I can tell at a glance how well I’m alternating between POVs.
  • Go through each POV character (Odin, Frigg, etc.) and figure out what their scene is about.
    • While I’m doing that I note who else is present (particularly if it’s another POV), what they’re doing and what they will be doing.
    • Most of this is written in my notebook, but I’ll often move stuff around in Scrivener, add notes, etc.
    • I’ve caught quite a few “uh that’s not possible” errors just by nailing down where various characters are and will be.
  • Outlining with pencil & paper also makes it really apparent when certain plot lines are weak. For example, Odin, Loki and Frigg all have 3+ handwritten pages each. Vidar and Vafthrudnir have one each. Oops. Hermod starts strong but then vanishes from the book after the middle build.
    • This lack of character/plot development was the main reason for having to repeatedly take BK1 apart & reassemble it — because I just wrote scenes and then organized them.
    • Outlining & brainstorming in advance should help solve that problem.
  • When I get what I think is a really good idea I’ll switch to the keyboard. Not only is it faster, but I want to capitalize on the inspiration. And writing a bit here & there helps.

My goal is to get the outline for BK2 finished by the end of August. That’ll give me four months to draft the book and then polish it before sending to my editor in early January 2018.

Launching in August

I just sent my manuscript to my proofreader. I’ve no idea how extensive her changes will be, but I’m guessing it’ll take me at least a couple weeks to go through them.

Once I get my book back from the proofreader, I’m going to put the book up for pre-order on Amazon. The max pre-order duration is 90 days. Actually it’s more like 86 since you have to account for re-uploading the final manuscript.

Either way, ~90 days will give me plenty of time to revise, fiddle and dither. Once the pre-order’s been live for ~30 days, I’ll advance the launch and make the book available in early August.  I’ll be launching into KDP Select / Kindle Unlimited.

The advantage to preordering is that the “also-boughts” begin to populate before the book’s actually available (Assuming people are browsing to it & pre-ordering.) Beyond that, the book and my forthcoming author page may also garner interest.

As a first-time author, my expectations are low. (But I’m hopeful!) My approach to the launch is basically “fire and forget” — no marketing and advertising beyond this blog and word of mouth. (I may run a bare bones ad budget of Amazon ads as an experiment.)

If I had more books (minimum 3), then advertising would make more financial / ROI sense since I could do things like create a box set, make the first book perma-free, discount the 2nd, etc. If things go as planned, though, I won’t have three books until September 2019.

That third book should complete the first story arc. My fourth book will be in the same Norse-inspired universe but will introduce new characters while most of those POVs in books 1-3 will have cameos. This is all assuming that my traction on books 1-3 increases over time. I’ve no idea if that’ll happen. If it doesn’t, then I’ll re-evaluate. But, I’ll be writing books 4-6 as a standalone (if related) series; BK4 will be a new entry point.

In the immediate term, I’ve a few things to do in preparation for my August launch:

  • Revisit my blurbs & bio. I haven’t looked at those in months so I should be able to rip into ’em a bit more easily
  • Figure out how to integrate a mailing list sign-up to this blog. I suspect it’s as easy as paying more money and clicking on stuff. I’ll probably use Mailchimp since it appears to be the most commonly used and its “Forever Free” plan will be more than sufficient for my needs. The most annoying part of the mailing list will be paying the USPS for a PO Box.
  • Figure out how CreateSpace formatting works. I want physical books to be available for marketing purposes.
  • Figure out how ebook formatting works. I’ve compiled multiple ebooks using both Scrivener and Word as the basis, but I’m assuming that I’ve missed something goofy (weird glitches, errors, etc.).
  • Finalize my front matter
  • Create my back matter — the call to action (leave a review and/or subscribe to my mailing list).
  • Finalize the three chapters from BK2 that I’m including at the end of BK1. The sequence will go like this: BK1 ends > call to action > first three chapters of BK2 > 2nd call to action.

And then, of course, I need to keep moving forward on BK2 or I’ll never make my Jan 2018 deadline. Regardless, it’s good to have the end (of BK1) in sight.

Book progress…

I’ve just now sent my line editor about 2K words for a re-edit. On June 5th I will submit the “final” manuscript to my proofreader.

I’m assuming it’ll take her about a month to make her edits.

I’ve no idea how long it will take me to go through all of her changes. Probably anywhere from two weeks to a month.

Realistically, I’m guessing the book will launch in August.

All righty…back to writing BK2!

 

Shed a Tyr for Loki

When I think of the Norse god Tyr, I can’t help but also think of Benedict, the brother of Corwin of Amber.*

When Benedict first appears in The Guns of Avalon, Corwin describes him thusly:

I fear Benedict…He is the Master of Arms for Amber. Can you conceive of a millennium? A thousand years? Several of them? Can you understand a man who, for almost every day of a lifetime like that, has spent some time dwelling with weapons, tactics, strategy?

In the Prose Edda, Snorri describes Tyr as the “bravest and most valiant and he has great power over victory in battles. There is a saying that a man is ty-valiant who surpasses other men and does not hesitate.” (This is from the Gylfaginning.)

Snorri goes on to write that…

when the Aesir were luring Fenrir so as to get the fetter Gleipnir on him, he [Fenrir] did not trust them that they would let him go until they placed Tyr’s hand in the wolf’s mouth as a pledge. When the Aesir refused to let him (Fenrir) go then he bit off the hand at the places that is now called the wolf-joint (wrist) and he [Tyr] is one-handed….

Benedict also lacks a hand.

I’m not suggesting that Benedict is Tyr. I’m just pointing out the similarities and, perhaps, the underlying influence.**

In Lokasenna 38-40 (Poetic Edda) which Snorri likely drew from, Loki mocks Tyr thusly (in Dr Jackson Crawford’s translation):

Loki: You don’t know how to settle disputes between men. I’m thinking of your right hand which Fenrir, my son, bit off.”

Tyr: I lost that hand, you lost that son. We both suffered loss. Your son isn’t doing well, either; he remains forever in chains waiting for Ragnarok.

This same passage reads thusly in the Bellows translation:

Loki spake:
38. “Be silent, Tyr! | for between two men
Friendship thou ne’er couldst fashion;
Fain would I tell | how Fenrir once
Thy right hand rent from thee.”

Tyr spake:
39. “My hand do I lack, | but Hrothvitnir thou,
And the loss brings longing to both;
Ill fares the wolf | who shall ever await
In fetters the fall of the gods.”

(Hrothvitnir = the Mighty Wolf = Fenrir)

Loki sounds kinda pissed off to me — as he does in all of the Lokasenna. After stanza 39 he goes on to further insult Tyr.

Tyr’s response in both translations, however, sounds even-handed (hah!).

All of the above is backstory and motivation for my characters — moreso for Loki because he has a POV. Tyr does not.

In the myths, Fenrir was chained because he’d grown gigantic and threatened the gods and the world — and it was prophesied that he would kill Odin when Ragnarok came. So they chained Fenrir up.

But why not just kill him?

I had to invent an answer for that in my book. Something believable.

And how did Loki feel about his kids getting cast out from Asgard by his blood-brother? (Odin also kicked Jormungand and Hel to the wayside.)

All of that’s some pretty key motivation right there. How did Angboda feel? What did she do?

Why did Loki end up getting hitched to Sigyn (his second wife)?

And since the myths can be read as Loki sticking around AFTER all this bad stuff happened to his family, then why did he stick around? And, maybe most importantly, what did he do about it?

I handled all those questions by looking deep inside a wolf’s belly.

 

 

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Note that the above picture is from this Pinterest gallery (I don’t use Pinterest). But, props to the artist found via this search. In the Chronicles of Amber the main characters — the royals of Amber — use decks of Tarot cards to communicate and/or travel through “Shadow.”

* Wait, you haven’t read the Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny? Hie thee to an online bookstore now & buy the Great Book of Amber. It’s classic fantasy.

**Overall, there’s quite a lot about Amber that is reminiscent of the Norse gods and their ongoing battle with the Jotunn. I haven’t thoroughly researched the connections, but Zelazny has reportedly said that Amber was influenced by Norse myth, Celtic myth and Arthurian legend — along with a host of other allusions to philosophy (Plato) and literature.

Etymology note (b/c it’s cool): In his dictionary, Simek writes that Tyr is the Old Scandinavian name for the Germanic god of the sky, war and council. “Tyr” simply means “god” and is cognate with Tiwaz (Proto-Germanic; also means god) and also with Dyaus (Indian), Zeus (Greek), Jupiter (Latin).