April saw the Year of Hard Work take a marked change as I moved from first drafts to editing and submissions.
With hindsight I think I could have handled this a little better. Project 4S surprised me with how well it went. I’d honestly thought I’d blow past my initial deadline and finish it sometime around now. I would have still been happy if that happened but instead I finished the first draft of the novel in just 58 days and then found that my next project (the third book in the Four Realms series) just wasn’t ready to start writing.
So I did some work on articles, shorts and a novella as well as a bit of editing and got a bit stressed out when my word count wasn’t as good as previous months. I had to remind myself, especially in the euphoria of actually hitting a quarter of a million words, that I wasn’t in a race with myself.
So this month I missed my ambitious target of 333,000 words… mostly because I wasn’t writing Four Realms #3 that would have given me a lot of word count.
Well, done in the sense that I probably need to rewrite large sections of it and then edit it to within an inch of its life. But I have a completed draft of The Thieving King as of the weekend.
Needless to say that this has been my bastard book. It’s pushed me harder than anything I’ve ever written and I could write essays on the trials this book gave me. But I’ll save those until nearer publication as I’m sure editing will throw up some trials of its own.
That said, I’m happy with it. In this book, we pick up where The Four Realms left off and continue Maureen, Darwin and Cassidy’s adventures. We’ve got demon gangsters, a rogue wizard, a ninja dwarf, zeppelins, trains, spaceships, a truly epic magic battle and much more. Oh, and Mr West is back!
Editing on Thieving King will start in a month or two, when I’ve had time to forget about it and look at it afresh. I’m already 5000 words into the next book, a project that I’m calling 4s and very few people know anything about. I suspect these early chapters are exploratory words and the plot needs a little more tightening up before I can really go for it, but this book is a little different to others I’ve written in many respects.
So we’re nearly two weeks into 2015 and I have to say that things are going remarkably well.
The year has started with an incredibly busy 2015 and has only got busier as new opportunities have come my way. Let me say, up front, my aim is NOT to try and take on as much as I can, but just to motor on and get things done.
It’s still early, early days and I’m conscious that I could approach burnout tomorrow (although, I have to be honest and say that I feel like I’m slacking rather than overworking) but it’s going far better than I expected.
I have to be honest – I’m going to miss 2014. It was such a good year for me that it’s going to be hard to top. I’d set out to have a Year of Adventure and I certainly managed that.
In between all the house buying, tornado chasing, and sword stabbing I also managed to get a lot written. Probably the most I’ve ever done. The sad thing is that the results of that hard work never got to be seen by anyone. That’s publishing for you!
But I’m determined to capitalise on the work I’ve done and continue to push myself forward. It might be 2016 or 2017 before I reap the benefits of that work but I don’t want to slack off just yet.
And so 2015 is my Year of Hard Work – a year to knuckle down, shut myself off from the world a little and just get a tonne of shit done. I was pretty productive in 2014, but I intend to see just how far I can push it.
Hence the last couple of days I’ve been working on the last chapters of Thieving King, doing some submission work on Black as Knight, researching my next book, and starting work on a proposal. January is going to be insanely busy.
Because of this and because of things I learnt in 2014, rather than plan the whole year out, I’m going to take things as they come. Projects have been shuffled around based on which one seems the best fit at the time and matches my career aims best. So rather than plan all my 2015 projects right away, I’ll just work on this one and then when it’s done choose the next one. At least that’s the current plan, I intend to be flexible as needs must.
I’m very excited about the 2015 projects I’m already working on but I’m not ready just yet to start talking about them.
But what I can say with a fair amount of confidence is that after a lot of delay and heartache, barring any major issues, The Thieving King should see release in 2015. I know, it’s been too long a wait and I intend for a MUCH shorter gap before the next book in the series. It’s the largest book I’ve ever written so hopefully that will go a small way toward compensating for the delay.
So here’s to 2015. There’s a lot of writing ahead, a lot of hard work (hence why I’m writing blog posts at 1am). Let’s hope it proves as successful as the Year of Adventure did!
There’s this misguided impression some people have that once you reach the status of semi-professionally published, writing a novel becomes a mundane affair. Some people think that once you conquer the mountain that is the novel, all subsequent novels will be a piece of piss.
This is absolute horseshit.
September. How the hell did it get to be September already?
With the advent of fall comes the knowledge that the year is running out. We’re now two thirds of the way through and I reckon I’m about half a book behind my schedule of four books this year.
Which is not bad, but gives me the worry that I might get to the end of this year and have just one finished book to show for it.
So like a lot of writers it seems, September is knuckle down and write month. If I can get this Thieving King draft done by end of September (and I’ve got a feeling that this is going to be a BIG book), Thunder of Crows could be my NaNo novel and then Refugee could be edited in October… or something.
Gah! I’ve gone from quietly confident to quietly panicking. Who stole the summer?
To help me I’ve declared a public word war on the incredibly talented CE Murphy. Like me, she is behind schedule and looking to have a busy September. We’re keeping it simple, most words over the month wins, although it’s less about ‘winning’ and more about ‘getting stuff done’. Feel free to join in at #SeptemberWordWar
Managed to get over 3000 words of Maureen fighting Vargs (i.e. Wargs / Worgs) done as a warm up yesterday so whilst I don’t expect to win it’s given me the impetus to start cranking up the productivity. I’m especially pleased as swapping between the 1st person present POV of Black as Knight and the 3rd person limited past of Thieving King has proved difficult before now.
Anyone would think that Thieving King has a potential release date!
So April got off to a slow start with a number of days off the writing. Issues with the leg have slowed me down a little the past fortnight and taken my attention elsewhere. And Storm Chasing season is just starting in the US meaning I’m glued to livestreams of an evening.
I’m also moving into the second act of this draft of Thieving King which is where things are radically different from previous drafts. This has been the point where things have broken in the past. This time they feel pretty tight, so I’m really pleased with that but I’m still haunted by ghosts of the past a little. There’s still a little fear there and I note that progress seems to really slow down as I move between acts, as if I need to think a little more carefully and spend a bit more time planning. It’s possible that I need to schedule a week break between acts with future writing projects.
But with it has come the realisation of two things – the first that this novel is a lot longer than I at first thought. Over the last year I’ve got much better at estimating my word count but it takes a half dozen chapters or so before I really get a feel for the novel’s pace and can really start to estimate. I was aiming for around 120,000 words, it’s currently on target for 200,000 words. If my experience with Black as Knight has told me anything it’s that it will drop to possibly 170,000. Still a BIG book though!
As a result I’m not going to finish this draft by Easter. To a degree that’s OK. I started a month later than planned anyway. I’ve set impossible deadlines for myself this year to see what I’m really capable of and build a much more realistic idea of the time I need to write a book. Ideally I’d like to be able to comfortably do 2 books a year. I want to get 4 novels done this year and I’m already working on my second, and that’s against a backdrop of a lot going on with work and leg and stuff. And the problem hasn’t been a ‘lack of word count’ but ‘amount of book’.
March’s word count was double that of February but as I am away with work for nearly a month from Easter, I reckon April and May’s will be very poor. Still, I planned to get no writing done at all whilst away so anything I manage will be a bonus.
Overall, I’m really pleased with the last month’s progress. I’m really testing and fine tuning my processes this year with a lot of experimentation, trial and error. It’s making the writing a lot of fun and I think I’m writing better books as a result.
Work is progressing with Thieving King but I’ve found it more difficult than I thought.
Part of this is because I’ve trod these chapters before. Whilst the tone and the attitude of some of the characters has altered slightly in this revision, at this stage it’s still very subtle. And so those chapters are haunted by ghosts of the past.
There’s a lot of fear here. Thieving King was originally the second half of Four Realms and so it shares a lot of the same structure. In the past few weeks I’ve realised just how complicated that structure is. In some ways it’s no wonder the first book took as long as it took to write because from where I stand now this feels like an incredibly complicated novel.
And so somewhere in the back of my head is a worry that something will still fail as I move into the next act of this draft. I hope not. One of the things this draft does is remove some of the darker elements that constantly punched you in the gut for ones that are a little more finessed and hopefully whilst they don’t hit as hard, they kinda hurt more.
But I’ve yet to settle into this novel. I’m very nervous about it on so many levels and it’s only as I now take it in subtly different directions to previous drafts that I find myself relaxing a bit more and enjoying the process.
Still I worry something will derail me, so there’s still this sense of blind panic of getting this draft done.
Even with real life getting in the way the last couple of weeks I’ve still made solid progress. I should hit 20,000 words tonight. That’s not bad considering everything and I’ve got a couple of big writing weekends coming up where I hope to really pile on the words.
Hopefully as I transition into act two of the novel it’ll get a little easier but it’s surprising how each novel you write throws up its own set of unique challenges.
If there’s one thing that’s more difficult than planning a novel, it’s taking an existing plan and reworking it.
I’ve talked about the issues I had with the first two drafts of The Thieving King and the plan for February was to take the plot of the novel, gut it and rebuild it. That’s hard to do, partly because you have to kill a lot of darlings and secondly because you have to judge what good stuff you’re wanting to get rid of because it now feels old, and which old stuff you want to keep for sentimental reasons.
In short, it’s tough and there’s been plenty of times when I’ve asked myself “is this still an awesome book?” I’ve worried when I didn’t feel as excited about it as Black as Knight but I’ve come to realise that’s simply because parts of this novel have gone back years to when it was originally the second half of The Four Realms and the whole first book called The Thieving King.
So I’m going into this draft with some nerves. Some subplots have gone and it looks like one favourite character I was really hoping to bring back isn’t going to make an appearance in this book (which I’m very sad about). Some new characters have gone through major changes but the main story has not changed.
I think all the Point of View characters now go through really strong character arcs, and the only thing now needed is some kick ass writing to get this draft done. It’s going to be interesting to see just how quick I write it. Seeing as I already have the next novel I want to write pencilled in for June / July, I really need to get motoring.
I’m still wondering when I’m going to get time to edit all these novels!
I listen to music when I write. In fact, I find it difficult to write without music. It sets tone for a piece for me. I find lyrics distracting so I largely go for instrumental pieces, film soundtracks and the like.
Over the years I’ve built my music collection that I can normally find the perfect piece of music to match the tone of the piece I am writing. But for Black as Knight I actually had a very tight playlist for several months that I played to death.
- Batman Arkham Origins Soundtrack by Christopher Drake
- Assassin’s Creed 4 Soundtrack by Brian Tyler
- Assassin’s Creed 3 Soundtrack by Lorne Balfe
- Assassin’s Creed 3: The Tyranny of King Washington Soundtrack by Lorne Balfe
- Batman: Arkham City Soundtrack by Nick Arundel and Ron Fish
- Assassin’s Creed Revelations Soundtrack by Jesper Kyd & Lorne Balfe
- Thor: The Dark World Soundtrack by Brian Tyler
- Tomb Raider Soundtrack by Jason Graves
- Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Soundtrack by Christopher Drake
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Soundtrack by Howard Shore
I actually really enjoyed having such a small playlist and I think it certainly aided much tighter writing, so I want to repeat the experience with Thieving King.
Except The Four Realms had a much, much larger selection of albums (mainly Hans Zimmer and Two Steps From Hell) and I think I need to select just a few albums from that pool and add in a few new ones. But what goes in and what stays out is occupying my mind as much as the plot at the moment. I’m going to be listening to these albums again and again and again over the coming months so the choices have to be perfect.
It’s a fun exercise building a playlist for a novel but I’m really having to fight it from taking over and occupying all of my thought time right now.