Progress!

You’ve heard the “writing is a muscle” expression before, right? Well, my experience over the past couple months has definitely proved it true.

Another saying that’s been going through my head of late is this: “do you want to be a writer or someone who’s written a book?”

Believe it or not, answering that 2nd question was kinda tough. It was easier to go through the motions…to say “meh, writer’s block” and quit after an hour or so of staring at the keyboard. And after a few months of that, well, you start to wonder — is this effort worth it? I could be doing other stuff with my non-family, non-job time.

What are you prepared to do?

But I kept coming back to wanting to create something. And I’d only just started…and I don’t like quitting just because it was tougher than I thought it would be. And, I have enough regrets in my life.

So back at the beginning of September, I decided to be a writer.

Step one was to quit playing WoW. Just doing that reclaimed a ton of time and dumped lots of stress.

Step two was to throw myself back into my 4 day a week writing habit. And by throw I mean omg it sucked.

I didn’t look forward to writing. The words weren’t flowing. Those that did were junk. I couldn’t move past the first third of the book — just kept going over it and over it and over it.

And, gradually, I was over it.

I was able to think more clearly about the book — timeline, plot, scenes I needed, scenes I needed to excise. I got past the first third of the book.

I wouldn’t say that things are amazing now, but I can feel the “flow” … time drops away and good stuff’s produced. Or at least good bones to hang stuff on.

So here are a few examples of what my progress looks like.

Stable word count ish

The book’s still hovering around 80K words which is my minimum word count goal for this book. That’s progress b/c despite the stuff I’m removing, I’m replacing a roughly equal amount of content…which, to me, means that the book’s concept is ok. And nothing plot-wise has changed since I went through that outlining process with my editor a year ago.

Moving past the beginning

As I said, I was stuck on the first third of the book. Never felt right. Too choppy. I couldn’t figure out how Frigg, for example, moved through the city and got into a bad situation (thanks to Loki). Nor could I figure out how she got out of that and then met up with a returning Odin. Nor how Loki stirred up trouble and planned future trouble before presenting himself to Odin and Frigg toward the end of the first section.

Well, now I have. Here’s an outline of how the first section of the book goes:

  • The book opens with Odin riding up from “Hel.”
  • Heimdall sees and hears him coming and, in Frigg’s scene, tells her that he’s coming. And he tells her that Thor is nearly to Gladsheim.
  • Loki presents himself at the great hall expecting to encounter Frigg. But, she’s not there. So Loki says he’ll stop by later — which gives him time to start trouble.
  • Since Thor’s not there yet, Frigg has time to speak with Hodr…and sets up her next interaction (with Thor).
  • Loki’s off starting trouble…which doesn’t pay off till later.
  • Frigg’s asked Thor to check out what Vidar found waaay up north. He agrees. And then she takes him to Baldr’s body…which puts her back near the great hall. Thor splits b/c he doesn’t want to see his father (which reinforces the bad blood between them).
  • Frigg goes into the hall, is told that Loki stopped by and will do so again later. She’s relieved b/c she didn’t want to deal with him w/o Odin. And, she’s told there’s a crowd gathering outside. She goes out & confronts the crowd.
  • Loki followed a crowd of people leading back up to the great hall, sees the crowd causing trouble for Frigg and decides to make it worse. As you do. Toward the end, he sees Odin riding up the road. Time to jet! But not before making it worse for Odin.
  • Cut to Odin riding up the hill, and then dealing with the fresh mob violence Loki just instigated.
  • Cut to Loki heading back down to a meeting with a certain someone. This clarifies a few things for the reader and sets up some future events.
  • Then cut back to Frigg in the aftermath of Odin dispersing the mob and then a new sequence that alternates between her and him — with a couple Loki scenes thrown in to build tension.

There’s a bit more to the book’s first third, but even writing this outline out fresh for this blog post it feels like it flows pretty well. (If you disagree, lemme know!)

Fixing later sequences, etc.

As with the above list of fixes, I did similar things later in the book to smooth events out. Some of this involved (and will involve) writing new scenes to flesh out sub-plots that are primarily there to give more depth to Odin, in particular, and to set up events in Book 3.

And best yet!

My editor checked in with me yesterday to make sure I was on track for the first round of manuscript evaluation on Jan 2.

I wasn’t sure, so I updated her on where I was and asked: Does my progress thus far match what you were expecting?

Her answer: Yep. This first critique will focus on the bigger picture stuff (plot, scenes) rather than the nitty gritty.

Phew. Like srsly. Phew.

And I got an extra week b/c she’s on vaca. Even better.

So when I hand the book in on Jan 7, it will be in pretty good shape. Not as polished as the first book I sent her a couple years ago but unlike that book, this one — Book Two — won’t be seeing massive plot shifts. I squared all that away last year. And like I said, it hasn’t changed.

I still have a ton of work ahead of me. And will do again come February.

But for now, it feels good to be a writer again.

 

Struggling.

Not much else to say. I sit down to write and my mind slides off the project like a dull knife off ice.

As an example, last week I wrote in my notebook a summary of each scene in the arcs for Loki, Frigg and Odin. I was trying to reinvigorate my interest by refreshing my memory — and, in the process, maybe spot some problems I could fix. It was helpful.

But now, because we’re selling our house and had to declutter, I shoved that notebook somewhere and can’t find it. Sigh.

So, as I sit down this morning to write, I’m annoyed and uninterested in working on Dark Grows the Sun — so many places that need work that I don’t know where to start.

So, I opened ancient drafts that I last looked at in September 2015. That felt like less of a total time-waster. (Self delusion is fun.)

When I originally started writing, all of what I’m working on now was a great big mish-mash. Over time, I broke that mess into three “volumes”:

  1. Aesir, which further divides into my current projects:
    1. Kinsmen Die
    2. Dark Grows the Sun
    3. I Don’t Know Yet
  2. Svartalvar
  3. Humanity

My original idea was to have Aesir #3 blend into the first Svartalvar book. Those of you who’ve read Kinsmen Die know that the Svartalvar have been mentioned numerous times but only seen once. The same goes for Dark Grows the Sun…except for one scene in which Odin sits upon the High Seat and looks down upon those “dark alvar.” As its written right now, Odin is the link between the two volumes.

Volume 2 dives right into the Svartalvar world via three characters: Sindri, Brokk and Eitri. Those familiar with Norse myth will recognize those names. They are the three “dwarves” who forged the weapons and items used by the Aesir — Gungnir, Mjolnir, etc.

Of course my three dudes are not those three dudes. Those names became titles/office which my three hold. As currently written. That may change if I decide that’s too stupid.

The goal of Volume 2 was to pick up at a point in Svartalvar history at which Sindri had discovered something amazing and then, through a series of accidents, come into contact with the Jotunn — specifically, Vafthrudnir. All of this is both the “prequel” to Kinsmen Die as well as running concurrently with the events in the Aesir volume. Book Two of Svartalvar is probably where they’ll link.

My goal with the third volume, Humanity, was to drag people into the Svartalvar world via Sindri and his experiments. That basic idea still works despite some changes I’ve made to how the universe is built.

The Humanity volume centers around a boy (Rowan) and a young female fox (Brinn). It’s in this volume that humans (via Rowan) come into direct contact with the Aesir. And its where Vidar starts to become a whole lot more like Odin. (Vidar was my gateway back into Norse myths and the dude around which everything initially revolved.) Oh, and those of you who know Norse myth know how important the rowan tree is 🙂

Looking back at it now, “Humanity” is very young adult (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and very quest oriented…which I had major problems with because I poorly used the “MacGuffin” technique.

Overall, there’s some really cool material in those later volumes which I’m eager to get to. It’s also nice to see that my writing has gotten better.

But as I sit here languishing in the mire that Dark Grows the Sun has become, I wonder when I’ll ever get to that material. And it’s depressing. I need Westley to dive into the lightning sand and haul my ass out. But, sadly, I am my own Buttercup and my own Westley.

Delayed!

I’ve pushed the publication of my second book back by about a year. Few reasons for that:

  • Lot of stuff happening with my family; that’s more important
  • Feeling rushed. There’s working under pressure and producing a good product for your editor to read and then there’s just slapping words on the page, knowing they suck. The latter just wastes her time and my money.
  • Troubles with theme and timelines.

Timelines will be the death of me. I’m continually struggling over making sure everyone is where they should be WHEN they should be and that it took a reasonable amount of time for them to get there. I’ll think I have it fixed only to start writing another scene and I’ll realize things are out of whack. And once you move one event, the changes ripple.

Theme. Ah, theme. I have three intertwined plots in my 2nd book: Loki, Frigg and Odin. They’re all twined around the…spoiler!

…spoiler!

…srsly…this next bit is a spoiler…

 

 

…the death of Baldr. Which is probably not a huge shock to those who know Norse myths. Odin’s plot is the most important one. Here’s what my editor said about it when she read my outline & summary…

Odin’s transformation has the potential to be monumental. His storyline is so much more internal than the others that it almost feels quiet in comparison, yet it sets the tone for everything.

What I have right now is nowhere near that. And I need it to deliver.

I need it.

So that’s why I’ve delayed the book.

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.

 

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!