Due to the busy schedule ahead of us and the upcoming U.S. holiday, I won’t be able to write a blog today, and I probably won’t be able to next weekend either :( I’m really sorry!
However, I wanted to leave you all with some good news and with a question!
First the good news: I’ve completed the final edits for Rise of the Forgotten! I’m really excited about this, because there’s not much left for me to do before I can setup and order a proof copy! I’ve already purchased the license for cover art for books 1 through 3 and the cover art for Orc War Campaigns, so all I have left to do is finalize the maps!
And one other thing to finish, a part I’m struggling with…the “About The Author” page. I don’t like what I’ve written in the 1st editions of books 1 and 2, but I don’t know how to re-write it. I’ve already had one friend give me really good suggestions on facebook, but, my question to you all:
What are some of your favorite “About The Author” pages that you’ve read before? Or, if you’re a writer, what have you written for yours in the past?
Thanks for reading, and to those celebrating this weekend, Happy Thanksgiving!
I read an article not long ago that made an interesting claim: placing constraints on an artist helps create the best art, while giving an artist total free reign, IE “the sky is the limit” often results in monstrosities.
Of course, I don’t have the article to re-read, and so I cannot remember the examples they gave. But, the idea came back to me today and I realized that in some ways, there may be truth to it.
Let’s take the most basic (or perhaps extreme) example: spelling, grammar, punctuation. If you tell a writer “no rules” you’re going to get something that’s difficult to read, if not impossible in some cases.
“OMG can u imagene readding a entire 300 pg b00k likE THis?”
…That was painful just to write! Almost as painful as reading Washington Irving’s run-on sentences!
But what about less obvious examples? As I’ve found out the hard way, there are rules about genre, and while it might not be too bad to bend those rules to make it interest, flat-out breaking them might work against the writer.
The best example I can think of is a topic I’ve already talked about: novel cover art. When I first started considering cover art for The Sword of Dragons, I remember looking at the fantasy section of Barnes and Noble and thinking, “All these covers look similar. I know! I’ll do something completely different, that’ll make my book stand out!”
Except…it didn’t. Not in the way I wanted it to. Yes, I made it look very different from regular fantasy novels. And so anyone looking to read a fantasy novel didn’t even bother to pick it up, or more likely, didn’t bother to click on it on amazon.com to see what it was about.
But there’s more than just cover art to consider…
Tropes of Fantasy
I’m a fan of taking a typical fantasy trope and turning it into something just a little different.
For instance, a typical trope about dragons is that they are fire-breathing creatures who live in caves guarding a hoard of treasure. In the first Sword of Dragons novel, there is, in fact, a dragon living in a cave, and she is indeed guarding something of incredible value, but rather than an evil beast greedily guarding gold, she is protecting the most powerful weapon in the universe.
Is it possible to take this too far? Initially I might say yes, but then I look at examples like Game of Thrones. In most fantasy novels, the heroes live and achieve their goals, and the heroes are often very clearly defined from the villains. Neither of these tropes are true in Game of Thrones.
But is that an exception? What was it about GoT that made it so popular? Honestly I don’t know, but it seems like this has created a sort of sub-genre of fantasy. I’m curious to see how many more venture into this type of fantasy, successfully.
And in all honesty, I’m not sure what rules should or shouldn’t be followed, when it becomes okay to break rules or tropes.
For my own part, I do enjoy a lot of fantasy tropes, they are why I like the genre. Dragons and magic in particular draw me in. I intend to continue to toe the line, keeping some fantasy tropes intact, while turning others on their heads.
For instance, dwarves will start to play a bigger part in books 3 and 4, but they won’t be exactly what you’ve come to expect from dwarves. You’ve already seen in book 2 that they once lived underground, as is typical for dwarves…but they definitely don’t anymore.
I also do not like the “Damsel in Distress” trope. Even if there’s ever a female character in need of rescuing in my novels, it’s usually not done in the typical way (for instance, Elaria in the first Sword of Dragons novel.) I’m all for ‘damsels in distress’ rescuing them selves, like Princess Leia did!
In any case, to answer the initial question of this blog, I think it helps to have constraints. Movie productions have shown that an unlimited budget aren’t necessarily going to create a better product. But sometimes, just sometimes, there are those that can break the typical rules and succeed.
It all depends on the circumstances, and perhaps even the luck of the draw.
First I want to apologize for the lack of a blog post last week. It was a busy weekend, plus my ADHD was extremely bad :( I sat down to at least write a “Sorry no blog post this week” and just…nothing would come out, I couldn’t focus at all.
Adding New Genre Elements
Anywho, on to today’s blog topic! When is it too late to add something new to a series? A new element, a new story line…I guess that’s rather vague, so perhaps I’ll jump right into why I’m asking this question.
My previous blog entry talked about developing the story for book 4 of the Sword of Dragons series (which, by the way, is already shaping up to be more complex than book 3, story-wise!) Part of the development has involved trying to give more time and attention to the supporting characters.
This led to an element I’ve known for years I wanted to introduce: airships, and an airship captain as a character. But I didn’t know who to make that character, what that character would be like. So I started thinking about that.
Initially I started going down the path of a gnome. In some fantasy stories, especially Warcraft, that is typical: gnomes are steampunk engineers in the Warcraft universe. I also wanted this new captain to flirt heavily with one of the female supporting characters already introduced (I’m intentionally not saying whom at this time, spoilers ;) )
But then I thought, no, because of Warcraft, gnome engineers and airship captains has kind of become a staple of fantasy, and I wanted to do something different.
I still don’t know exactly what species, but I’ve also tried to increasingly show women in strong positions, so I decided I’m going to make the airship captain a woman…but then, I still wanted to do the story line involving the flirtation with the supporting character I mentioned.
And that’s where I come to the meat of this post. To avoid spoilers, I won’t say if a relationship ever sparks up between these two characters, but I have not yet explicitly shown or featured homosexuality in my series.
Why? I could go into a detailed explanation, but it basically boils down to the fact that when I first started developing Sword of Dragons over 15 years ago, it was still a very taboo topic and I didn’t give it much thought.
First and foremost, I know that this would alienate some existing readers who are extremely anti-homosexual. But it would also attract readers from the LGBTQ+ community. I don’t want to get into the topic of “is it right or wrong” at this time, that is not the focus of this blog post.
But this does mean that I’ll be introducing a completely new element into the 4th novel of the series. Actually, 2 elements, one that has been intended for some time, and one not.
This does not mean that the Sword of Dragons series will become a steampunk novel series or a homosexual erotica series. It will remain, at its core, a fantasy adventure series. But just like all fantasy adventure or sci-fi, it is a genre that can include elements of many other genres without it being out of place.
Fantasy stories can also be romances (and often are.) They can be horror. They can even be buddy-cop type stories (that could be an interesting story to write someday!) Or murder mysteries. They can be about individuals or about entire worlds, they can cover small personal struggles, massive interplanetary wars, and everything in between.
If you’ll pardon the pun, that is the magic of fantasy. It can be just about anything! It can take the writer and the reader anywhere their imaginations can fathom.
The hard part is making something new and fresh while also keeping it consistent. So what do you think, dear readers? Is book 4 too late to introduce these new elements, whether planned or not?
In case you’re thinking back and wondering, both of these elements were previously hinted at in the series. The steampunk is a combination of magic and technology, IE science and magic together. That has been hinted at in that I’ve made the physics of the universe, outside of magic, work like reality. Planets orbiting stars, etc. And the LGBTQ+? Well, I’m still wondering how many people have picked up on it, but let’s just say you might take a closer look at the final episodes of The Orc War Campaigns :)
Update on Rise of the Forgotten
I’m about halfway through chapter 27 on editing! I’ve been focusing more on the edits than the map-making lately, mostly because that has aligned with my schedule and opportunity. But since I’m almost finished with edits, that means it’ll soon be time to finish the map and get a proof copy of the novel ordered! I’m hoping by December I’ll have the first proof copy in hand.
I can’t wait to be able to release it for you all to read! :D
Whenever I start actually writing the manuscript to a new novel, by that point it has been at least a year or two in the making (the one exception so far being the Chronicles of the Sentinels.) I first come up with the general idea, either for the story or for a character, and start to unravel the entire story surrounding that idea, as well as back story to go along with it.
So it shouldn’t surprise me, and yet it still does: I’m smack in the middle of 2nd edition edits, still need to finish writing the first draft of book 3 of The Sword of Dragons…and suddenly inspiration strikes, and I start unraveling the entire story for book 4 in my head!
Not to say I don’t already have a general idea of all six books anyway, but I mean actual full story details. And the best part is that I started coming up with the details when I started thinking to myself, “how can I start to give the supporting characters more attention?”
And it just started unraveling in my head like the story was already there in my mind, I just hadn’t brought it forward to my conscious thoughts yet.
What’s really exciting is that, just like with my 7-year run on my fan fiction, things that I wrote in the earlier books are coming together to create the new stories. Things that happened in the first 3 books as well as The Orc War Campaigns will become important in book 4…some things I didn’t even mean to make important later on!
I get so excited when this happens! I love that, somewhere in the back of my mind, everything is connecting together from the beginning and building on the foundational story.
The Importance of Supporting Characters
More and more, I’m learning just how important supporting characters are. Often times supporting characters become fan favorites in stories. Samwise Gamgee, for instance, or Ron Weasley.
In the past, this was something I struggled with. In my fan fiction, I focused a lot on the two main characters, the Captain and his first officer. To the suffering of all other supporting characters. I started to rectify this in the last two seasons, but I realized this was something I should have done from the get go.
For The Sword of Dragons, I tried to ensure I at least had good back stories setup for Reis, Sira, and Dalin. Yet I feel like I still haven’t given them the time and attention they deserve. That’s definitely changing starting in book 3, and most definitely now in book 4.
But, I have a question for everyone: are you usually willing to read a longer novel due to more time and attention being given to supporting characters? For instance, book 3 of the Sword of Dragons will have about 1/4 of the chapters devoted to Reis going on his own adventure without Cardin or Sira. Plus several other chapters branch off for other supporting characters.
All of these instances are integral to moving the main story line forward, and I think that’s probably the key: any time a novel goes to a perspective of another character, it must be with a legitimate purpose, and not ‘just because.’ What do you think?
Status of 2nd Edition Edits
I have less than 100 pages of edits left for Rise of the Forgotten, which means I’m more than 2/3rds through it!! :D I’m excited, I really like how the changes are affecting the flow, I think it’s making for a much more enjoyable story. Of course, that’s my own opinion, I just hope everyone who reads it will agree :)
Much to my surprise, so far I’ve reduced the word count of book 1 by 1400 words! I’m kind of glad to see this overall trend, though, mostly because I’m trying to get rid of redundant phrasing and make each paragraph have more impact.
I haven’t had time to work on maps. I also just realized that the artist doing my character sketches, Centalynn Artworks, should be back in country now, so I need to go back to review her latest iterations and make choices to send to her. I don’t currently plan to include any character sketches in the novels, but I’d love to have them on the website as soon as they are finished :)
That’s all for today, thanks for reading!
Back in March, I wrote an article about software that analyzes a passage and tells you whose writing style it is similar to. One of the things I was surprised to learn was that my writing style has changed over time. More than that, I’ve even come to realize that my writing style changes depending on what I am writing.
I’m not just talking about the difference between fantasy and sci fi, but within a single novel. The first Sword of Dragons novel (Rise of the Forgotten), I initially got Arthur Conan Doyle, and later on, JK Rowling. I’ve put in a few other passages from Rise of the Forgotten (all edited versions) and got Dan Brown for an action sequence, and then JK Rowling for another random section.
However, back in March, I was surprised when passages from Burning Skies and the unfinished book 3 came out as Ursula K. Le Guin, the writer of the Earthsea series. I’d never read any of her work, so wasn’t sure what to make of it. So I went out and bought the first Earthsea novel, The Wizard of Earthsea. About a week ago, I finally started reading it.
…and I don’t see it. I don’t see any similarity to her writing style. I was shocked by that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I don’t like her writing style, I actually rather enjoy it and I’m getting through the first book very quickly. In fact someone said she’s a master of character development, so the comparison is flattering. But I don’t see the similarity to my style.
Or at least, I didn’t think so at first…
Am I Just Too Close To My Own Writing To See It?
I mentioned this to my friend Liza the other day over IM. She kinda paused for a bit, and then replied that she actually could see the similarity, and started going into details about how. One of the thing she said is that we both write very matter-of-fact in many instances.
I see that in Earthsea, but I wasn’t seeing that in my own writing. And I started wondering…is that just because I’m too close to my own writing? I know that’s why they say a writer should always get an outside editor (hard to do when you can’t afford one…)
It’s neither a good thing or a bad thing, though, it’s just my style. Some people will like it, some won’t. I started wondering if I should find a way to adjust my writing and make it less ‘matter-of-fact’ but then I realized that it works for me. Not to say my writing style is perfect – I will never stop trying to make myself better.
But that’s an important thing to remember. Find your voice. It may be like someone else’s, but that’s okay as long as it is your voice and it isn’t a struggle to write in that style.
So Do Outside Opinions Matter Or Not?
This becomes a rather difficult question to answer. Not everyone likes my writing style. And I truly do think that I’ll always have room for improvement. But who would be the best judge of my style and what direction I should go to improve it?
Honestly that’s something I struggled with in the writer’s critique groups. There were writers from all genres there, and some of the other writers there were criticizing aspects that were staples to fantasy. As much as I like to turn some tropes on their heads, if you do that too much, you can actually drive readers of your genre away. Finding that balance is difficult.
I find that writers often try to impose the rules of their genre onto others when they get into a critique group. Just ask any die-hard literary fiction writers. (And now I’m having flashbacks to my college days…)
So does that mean that only writers from your story’s genre can be good judges? Actually…not necessarily. Because even within a genre, writers have their own styles, and readers can have preferences to styles.
So the question is…who is the authority? Is there an authority? I honestly don’t know. Even within a single genre, ‘famous’ writers can have extremely different styles, and some of those famous writers break every rule that’s out there.
I don’t have an answer to that question. At all.
So my only advice: go with your gut. Trust the opinions of your target audience and don’t stop trying to improve your writing. In fact, pay close attention to what your target audience says. That may be the best thing you can do for yourself and your writing.
I apologize that today’s blog post is such a short one, we’ve had a family emergency and my mind is just…not in the right place for writing a blog. However, I didn’t want to leave you all with nothing this week, so I thought I’d answer a question I’ve been asked by a couple of people recently.
“Why did you announce the 2nd editions of the Sword of Dragons so early? If people know that there’s going to be a 2nd edition sometime soon, doesn’t that mean few people will want to buy the current editions? You won’t get many sales between now and then.”
That’s true, and is one of the things I considered when deciding when to reveal those plans. However, for the same reason that I made the announcement so early, I’ve not been buying any more advertisements for the books.
I would feel guilty, trying to get people to buy my books when there’s a newer, better version on the horizon. I already feel bad since I know there will be some people who already have the 1st editions that will want to buy the 2nd, and that in turn has fueled my desire to make the 2nd edition as good as possible, to make it worthwhile.
When I said that, someone replied, “Who cares if they have to buy two versions? You want to make a living off of writing, right? Then you should try making money anywhere you can.”
Is that the right way to make more money? Possibly. But is it the right thing to do?
It’s no secret, I want to be able to make enough sales to one day live off of writing. But I don’t want to make my entire focus be on money, because I’m afraid if I do that, I’ll lose my real focus – Telling stories the best way that I can.
Progress on the 2nd Editions
I’m more than halfway through Rise of the Forgotten’s edits, and I’m finding that all of the chapters I wrote just before, during, and just after my writers block all those years ago need way more work than any previous ones so far. And that makes sense to me, since I had a really hard time getting the story out back then.
As for the maps, the map of Edilas (the continent where the 4 kingdoms are) is complete except for a couple of details. Test prints came out wonderful! I need to get the world map cleaned up and a couple of final details on it, and then I need to get Devor ready for book 2.
Projected completion of 2nd editions is still in the air, but I’ll definitely let you all know as soon as I know :)
Part of why I was excited to release last week’s announcement was that I can finally talk about the different pieces of my latest project, and how everything is coming along with them!
This includes the maps of Halarite for the Sword of Dragons novels! A couple of years ago, Wayne Adams of VtW Productions introduced me to a friend who was interested in making maps for the Sword of Dragons. Through many months of collaboration, Chloe drew up several maps, including a low-detail one of the world and higher-detailed versions of each continent.
One thing we agreed on was that she would not label anything. That task would fall to me after I scanned them in. However, there’s one thing I didn’t think about at the time:
I have very little experience making or labeling maps. And it is not as easy as one might think.
How do you put labels on a map so that it is understandable, legible, and not cluttered or confusing?
Thankfully, I had actually done some work on this all the way back in school, and a little bit since then. Plus, I love maps. I have a giant map of Middle Earth hanging on the wall at our apartment, and I have kept every map from every Elder Scrolls game I’ve bought, not to mention some old maps from EverQuest.
As I’ve been working on this, I’ve come to realize a few things…
Labeling What’s Most Important
Just like a book cover must convey the appropriate message to the target audience, a map should be tailored to convey the information someone might need from it. In the case of a novel, a map should have the information a reader might need.
These decisions are especially important for me since my maps will be in a small, black-and-white paperback format. That means there isn’t going to be room for a lot of small details, and fine-print will make it impossible to read. Obvious labeling will be necessary.
I do have the advantage of the fact that I have different detailed maps. The overall global map has few land features on it, so that gives me room to label political boundaries, for instance. Furthermore, I’m considering having the global map span two pages, as I’ve seen done in other novels.
Then, for book 1, I’ll have the more detailed map of Edilas, the continent where the 4 kingdoms are, on a single page. For book 2, I may still include that map, but I’ll also include a map of Devor.
Another lesson I remember from school is that bigger features require bigger names. So for instance on the global map, I’ll make the world name the biggest. Continent names will be smaller. Kingdom names smaller, followed by city and feature names.
Maps for Print vs. Maps for Web
One advantage I do have: these are fairly high-res images. So while I’ll be focusing for now on the maps that’ll go into books 1, 2 and 3, I will be making higher-detailed versions for the website, http://www.theswordofdragons.com/. Thankfully people can always zoom in to read finer print on the web.
There’s also the advantage of color on the web. I’ve already played around a bit by adding overlay colors for the 4 kingdoms on the global map. I think this will be useful and interesting for readers.
While I don’t want to make readers of the print editions go online to see more detailed maps, I think having the option will be a nice addition. “Here’s these maps, but if you want to see more details, go to the website!” That’ll allow readers like me, who love to learn as much as possible about fantasy worlds, to get more information.
That’s all for today! I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the production of the 2nd editions. If there are any specific features you’d like included in the maps, let me know in the comments!
Thanks for reading,
Trials and triumphs of writing, finding an agent, and publication.