Category Archives: The Chronicles of the Sentinels

The Story That Almost Was, And Still Could Be

It’s been a long road.

Next month, this blog turns 6 years old!  And like any proverbial rollercoaster, there’s been ups and downs.

But there’s one thing that’s always nagged at my mind.  One story that almost was.  A story that still could be.

In June 2014, I had an idea for a new trilogy of modern-day fantasies, a trilogy that eventually became called Chronicles of the Sentinels, and that story swept me away!  At the time, it had been ages since a new idea made me feel so much excitement, so much anticipation to write it and try to pitch it to agents or publishers.  In fact, I knew that the idea was unique enough and exciting enough, I was sure to get it published!

A modern fantasy steeped in Babylonian mythology.  Much like other sci-fi or fantasy stories, it took the myths, legends, and history of ancient times, and wove them into a tale of mystery and intrigue that took place today, right now, and brought magic back to our crazy modern world.

Back then, I decided to treat writing like a full-time 2nd job, and I worked on this story every single day.  3 months later, I had developed the overarching concepts for the trilogy, come up with the outline for the first novel, and written the first draft.  In just 3 months!

Then came the hard part – pitching to an agent.

Colorado Gold Conference

Image Source – RMFW.org

Back in 2014, I attended my first ever writer’s conference, called the Colorado Gold Conference hosted by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.  One of the perks of participating in this conference was getting the opportunity to meet one-on-one with a few agents and pitch a story to them.

I nearly struck gold ;)  I pitched to an agent who, after just one minute, told me how excited she was and that she wanted to see the first thirty pages of my manuscript.  I was ecstatic!  And it bolstered my feelings that the story idea was enticing and interesting.

Alas, as you might know, Chronicles of the Sentinels has not been published yet.

The agent sent a response within a short amount of time telling me that while the story idea had definite merit, the protagonist was not at all interesting, and I needed to do some considerable work on the story to fix it.

As she pointed out the exact reasons, I realized just how correct she was.  I’d managed to make an interesting story, but not an interesting character.  I knew I’d have to work on it.

Editing vs Rewriting

Back then, I felt my only recourse was to do a thorough and complete edit.  It would take considerable time.  And I’d given myself a deadline of ‘making a living off of writing in 2 years.’  Even though I knew back then that it was not an achievable goal, I also knew that by setting such a goal, it would push me forward, and break a decades-long ‘I’ll eventually get to it’ mentality.

Photo by Beck Wasik

As a result of that self-imposed deadline, I decided to instead self-publish another finished story, The Sword of Dragons, the very fantasy-adventure series that I’m still writing books for today!  I do not at all regret this decision, even though it meant that I wasn’t able to work on Chronicles again until 2019.

Book 1 of the Lotus War Trilogy by Jay Kristoff

I especially don’t regret it because of where I’m taking Chronicles now!  I started looking at it again last year, and it occurred to me that the story could benefit from a total re-write, in a completely new writing style.  I’d been re-reading the Lotus War Trilogy by Jay Kristoff, and realized what it was about his style that I liked.  It was personal, it was fluid, the language wasn’t ‘matter of fact’ all the time.  More than that, the characters, especially the protagonist, was interesting and human, with flaws and personality quirks that I was able to connect to, even though I’m not actually like her.

And I wanted to try my own version of that writing style.  Not copy, no way I could do that, but write in a style that was far more engaging and personal.

So I started fresh, re-developing the primary protagonist as I went, and wrote two new chapters for Chronicles.  I sent it to some beta readers, who absolutely loved it!  But I set it down after that because my life became consumed with other issues, such as my hip injury and subsequent surgery.

A couple of weeks ago, I re-read those two chapters, and just like I did back in 2014, I felt the familiar bubbling of immeasurable excitement!

Christopher Tatsu (Image Source – http://cdn.stylisheve.com)

I feel like I’m onto something big again, and I feel like I’m finally doing this story justice!  The protagonist, Christopher Tatsu, is far more interesting, and from the very beginning of chapter 1, the reader goes on a journey with him, seeing hints of magic, but wondering if they’re real or what it means…it’s exactly what the story needed!  More than that, I’ve created a far more personable, human character, and given him a history and traits that make him easier to connect to.

So, when I’ve grown bleary-eyed while editing and proofreading book 3 of the Sword of Dragons (don’t worry, I’m still very much on schedule,) I have been turning to writing more of Chronicles.

It was the story that almost was picked up by an agent.  And it still could be, becoming my first professionally-published novel :)

Thanks for reading!  I plan to go into more depth on what I’m doing differently in this version, but that, my friends, is a story for another time.

-Jon Wasik

Who Do You Write Like?

Hi everyone!

Who are some of your favorite writers?  Can you point to why they are your favorite?  There’s probably a lot of reasons, anywhere from the stories they write, the characters they create, and so on.

One thing to consider, however, is how they tell their stories.  I love JK Rowling’s writing style, especially watching it evolve over the course of the Harry Potter novels.  I also really enjoyed Michael Stackpole’s writing style.

I know I’ve touched on this more than once in the past, and every writer has a distinct voice of their own…

…Right?

I mean, that’s what I’ve always thought: we all have our own writing styles that are unique to us.  However, according to an interesting website that analyzes text to compare it to ‘famous’ writers…my writing style seems to change over time.

My fiancee first mentioned it, that she once found a website that compared her writing to another author’s.  We searched and found it, and started putting excerpts from our stories into it…and were a bit surprised by the results.

The “King” of Horror

Her results were relatively consistent, and for someone who has never read Stephen King, according to https://iwl.me, she writes an awful lot like him.  Very consistently.

Myself, however…

I started by putting in the first page of chapter 1 into the tool, and was pleasantly surprised when I apparently write like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  The same man who wrote Sherlock Holmes.  That was kind of cool to see!

However, I had the idea to see how much my writing changed after my 4-year writer’s block that was in the middle of the Sword of Dragons, so I took an excerpt from chapter 31 and put it in.

…and according to the website, my style matched that of JK Rowling’s.  This didn’t surprise me a whole lot, because during my writer’s block, I had read all of Harry Potter.  And all of my chapters from book 1 after the writer’s block period came out as JK Rowling.

That pleased me, because I really really liked her writing.

Then I began to wonder, how different was my writing style for Chronicles of the Sentinels?  I intentionally tried to write it differently.  So I put in the first page of chapter 2, and was not surprised to find I wrote that chapter, and action sequence with military-type action, like Dan Brown.

…However, a later chapter came out to say that I wrote like Stephen King.  That caught me a bit off guard.

So again, wondering if things were different in later books, I started putting in excerpts for Burning Skies.  And according to the website, I write like Ursula K. Le Guin, the same author who wrote Earthsea.  I’ve never read any of Le Guin’s work, so this also surprised me.

While some other chapters had other authors’ names attached, mostly book 2 was written like this author.  And when I put in excerpts from my work in progress for book 3, it again is coming out as being like Le Guin’s style.

This got me to thinking something…has my writing style matured?  Have I found my voice?  At least, for high fantasy?  Where as my style changed in the first novel, and my style changed throughout Chronicles, my latest two novels are giving me Le Guin as the result.

Is this good?  I think I might have to pick up Earthsea to see if I can pick up on the similarities, and see if I like her novels.

But if this is an indication that my writing style has matured, that’s kind of amazing…because it took 20 years to find my voice!  I wonder if that’s normal for a writer, or not.

I also can’t help but wonder…I’ve always thought it is important to try to improve my writing all the time.  Will this mean that, over time, my style will change and become comparable to someone else’s?

I guess time will tell :)

Thanks for reading!  Let me know if there’s a particular writing style you like.  Or if you’re a writer, check out https://iwl.me and comment below who’s writing style yours is similar to!

-Jon Wasik

Starting Simple – Character Archetypes

Hi everyone,

Something’s been nagging at the back of my mind lately, and I think I’m starting to figure out what it is.  And the thing of it is, it started a couple years ago.

Christopher Tatsu (Image Source - http://cdn.stylisheve.com)
Christopher Tatsu (Image Source – http://cdn.stylisheve.com)

Back when I was still going to a writer’s critique group, I took in chapter 1 of Chronicles of the Sentinels – Legacy.  In that first chapter, I introduce Chris Tatsu as he is finishing up his college finals.  That first chapter needs tons of work, and in fact I’m thinking of scrapping it completely at this point and rearchitecting the beginning of the novel, but I digress.

In that first chapter, Chris runs into a classmate who is, in a sense, a stereotypical ‘surfer dude’ type.  What surprised me the most: two of the people in that critique group said that Chris was boring, but the stereotypical surfer dude was more interesting.

Do people really want more of the ‘stereotypes’ than more intricate and complex characters?

I don’t think so.  But I did have a thought…

Starting Simple and Building From There

Image Source - http://wallpapertvs.com/dragon-guarding-the-treasure-hd-wallpaper/
Image Source – http://wallpapertvs.com/dragon-guarding-the-treasure-hd-wallpaper/

Something I did in The Sword of Dragons was I took a lot of fantasy tropes and made my own spin on them.  The best example I always give: in book 1, there’s a dragon with a lair in a cave guarding a treasure.  Except, instead of an evil dragon who hoards gold, this dragon was a good, intelligent, kind spirit, who was protecting the most powerful artifact in the entire Universe.

And I’ve been thinking, at least for future projects…maybe I should continue this trend for future characters and projects.  Start with an archetype, but then make my own spin on that archetype.  Maybe this approach will allow readers to more easily connect and identify with characters from the start.

Image Source - https://www.pinterest.com/smokelight/dwarf/
Image Source – https://www.pinterest.com/smokelight/dwarf/

I kind of already plan to do this with book 3 of the Sword of Dragons series.  I’m introducing a dwarf character early in book 3, and he is a bit of a conundrum.  You see, he’s got the attitude of a ‘stereotypical’ dwarf, but he fights that attitude, because he serves the elven College of Serelik (first mentioned in Burning Skies.)  So he’s expected to dress nice and act nice and remain well groomed.

But I’m also thinking of future projects beyond the Sword of Dragons series.  I have so many ideas that I hope I’ll actually be able to get to someday…and I think I want to try to model characters in such a fashion.  Start them off as archetypes, but turn those archetypes on their heads and make sure that the characters are their own, complex, unique entities.

What do you think, dear readers?  Do you find it easier to identify with archetypal characters who then go off to become their own, or would you rather have characters who don’t in any way fit a stereotype?

Final Note

I’m trying to work up the courage to do another VLog…because I have an important announcement to make, and I feel like just typing up a normal blog would not be appropriate for this announcement.  This will likely end up being outside of the normal Saturday blog cycle.  I’ve only done one other VLog in the past…is anyone here interested in seeing more?

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Writing A Series – A Love Affair

Hi everyone!

Have you ever seen the movie “Cloud Atlas” or read the novel from which it is based?  There’s a quote in the movie that kind of inspired this blog article:

"A half-finished book is, after all, a half-finished love affair."
“A half-finished book is, after all, a half-finished love affair.”

Off and on, I’ve toyed with the idea of going ahead and publishing the first Chronicles of the Sentinels novel in the near future, rather than waiting until I finish the Sword of Dragons series.  So I started reading through old blog entries while I mulled it over, and came across a blog I wrote earlier this year.

In it, I had talked about deciding, after almost landing an agent for Chronicles, to self-publish.  But instead of self-publishing Chronicles, I decided to self-publish what I called “my first love,” The Sword of Dragons.

And that’s when the answer came to me.

Commitment To A Series

I can’t stop working on Sword of Dragons.  I want to see it through to the end.  And I know as a reader, I hate when a writer takes years to come out with the next book in a series.

Image Source - stylecaster.com
Image Source – stylecaster.com

Just like I’m a one-woman kind of guy, I’m a one-series kind of guy :)  I can only really and truly focus on one at a time, otherwise I get distracted, and the series suffers for it.

Even writing The Orc War Campaigns has put me behind on the main novel series, and I’m genuinely worried I won’t be able to get book 3 out on time.  I haven’t even started the first draft yet!

So I’m going to stick with my original plan.  Work on one series at a time.  And while that unfortunately means I’ll only be releasing one novel per year (excluding the Orc War Campaigns anthology,) it’ll be well worth it to focus on one series, one story, at a time.

The Long Term Plan

So, assuming I can get book 3 out on time, my plan is to release one Sword of Dragons novel per year, leading up to the epic conclusion in book 6 in 2020.

Images Source - http://bramleegwater.deviantart.com
Images Source – http://bramleegwater.deviantart.com

From there, I want to finish the Chronicles of the Sentinels trilogy.  Even though book 1, Legacy, is already done, it needs work and TLC, so I’ll likely hold off releasing that until 2021, making that series go out to 2023.

From there…well let’s just say that I have enough story ideas to continue publishing a new book every year until 2030.  But after Chronicles, I’m not sure what I want to do first.

Image Source - http://best-sci-fi-books.com
Image Source – http://best-sci-fi-books.com

There are a few one-off novels I want to write, including a sci-fi story idea I had recently, but there’s also a series of sci-fi novels I want to write that totally cross boundaries of genre, in ways that I think are really cool :D

Anywho, that’s all for today, everyone!  Sorry for no vlog today, but maybe I’ll work up the courage later this week :)

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik