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.
So in the last couple of weeks I’ve had a number of people ask me what I’m working on and when the next book is out. So I thought I’d give an update.
For all my jokes, Leg-gedon lost me a lot of time. I really had to focus on so many things – building the strength of the leg back up, ultra restrictive diet, etc. – that I lost a lot of creative energy. I realise that sounds a bit wanky but sitting at a desk with one leg outstretched and elevated really isn’t the most comfortable position to write. And when you’re in a ridiculous amount of pain and genuinely worried whether you’re still going to have a leg weeks down the road, you just can’t absorb yourself in your writing as much as you want. Whilst I managed to get a lot of work done all things considered, my productivity was in areas where I did not need to be sat over a computer for hours, such as improving my process to increase my productivity, working on plotting out a few novels, etc. It’s probably taken 8 months to get back to the level I was at before the event but I feel I’ve come back stronger, quicker as well as more creative and productive.
Today I launch a bonus feature for readers of The Four Realms – the location map. I’ll admit to stealing this idea from Ben Aaronovitch who does the same for his truly excellent Peter Grant books. It’s a google map with all the locations, both real and imaginary, from The Four Realms. Obviously when I say ‘all’ I mean the Realm of Men(i.e. our world) as I don’t think Google has got around to doing satellite photography or Street View of Venefasia yet.
Hopefully this will be a treat for fans of the book. I’ve tried to include some notes about the locations to give you all a bit more background information. And as an extra special bonus, I’ve included one new location scheduled to appear in Book 2!
Enjoy! You can find the location map from the main menu or at http://adrianfaulkner.com/novels/the-four-realms/the-four-realms-locations/
As a writer I’ve always had the sort of relationship with process that if it were a Facebook status would read “it’s complicated”.
You see, I honestly believe that any writer who doesn’t analyse what they do and try and understand with a view to improvement is never going to get anywhere. Arrogance is the quickest way to kill any career. But like many unpublished writers I spent a long time delving into “how to write” books and never felt like I got much out of them. I don’t think I was looking for a magic button but perhaps sometimes I needed to be told that the answer to my problem was “a lot of bloody hard work”. I think if I am honest I was trying to discover who I was as a writer. I’m not sure I entirely know now.
One of the nice things about being a writer is that I sometimes get to be a bit of a bastard. In every day life I’d like to think I’m fairly nice and kind, but when it comes to writing, I pretty much torture my characters, and in some cases actually do so. Because they are fictional there’s no real come back. Thank God, because if they were real, then after the stuff I do to them in Book 2…