Yep, you read the title right: without even meaning to, I started developing book 2 of Chronicles of the Sentinels today. I couldn’t help it!
In fact I actually know the very basic story books 2 and 3 will have, but today ideas just started streaming without my even wanting them to, lol. I mean I never complain, but I had intended to wait to work on book 2 until after the Writer’s Conference!
As happened with book 2 of The Sword of Dragons, I think this one will end up being longer than book 1, though by how much it’s impossible to say at this point. However, I am looking forward to it already, I’ve had some really exciting ideas that I can’t wait to write about!
Having said that, I don’t want to focus too much on book 2 in my blog yet. I want the focus to remain on book 1 right now, for several reasons, not the least of which I want to keep hype up about it for its eventual publication (I am highly optimistic about finding an agent for this one :) )
I haven’t heard back from any beta readers yet, so I’m very anxious and excited!
Anyway, tonight’s blot article is short, I apologize for that. I also want to apologize ahead of time, because for the next two weeks I am going to be exceedingly busy, so my blog posts may be even fewer and far between than they were while writing Chronicles!
Never-the-less, I intend to keep everyone updated on my preparation for pitching Legacy at the conference, as well as how the conference itself goes!
So this past weekend, I wasn’t able to do any writing. Aside from taking me from being ahead of schedule to behind schedule on my deadline, I also found myself wishing I could find time to write the entire weekend.
I’m not complaining, to be sure, I had a blast this weekend! Exploring parts of Denver and enjoying the last day of the Colorado Renaissance Festival…I can’t think of a better way to spend the weekend :) I even went back to 16th Street Mall to check out the location for one of the scenes in Chronicles of the Sentinels!
However, when I opened up my laptop this morning at Starbucks and spent an hour writing before work, I felt re-energized and alive again! It felt like something had been missing from my life for nearly three days, and I found it again this morning :)
I’m curious if anyone else has this same experience? Where if you go too long without writing, you get fidgity and anxious, you become distracted by story ideas (okay, for me that’s almost always happening,) and when you look at your laptop or notebook and go, “…just five minutes! That’s all I need!” Of course, five minutes turns into an hour, turns into five hours…
I find that the more I write, the more I love it. I’ve been writing for nearly twenty years (I think closer to 18 at the moment, but I’ll keep rounding up :p ) And now I’m writing so much! I mean I’m literally spending mornings and evenings writing, usually at one Starbucks or another!
Chronicles of the Sentinels update
As of tonight, I have finished chapter 14 of Chronicles of the Sentinels. Here are the statistics so far:
Word Count: 41,859
Page Count: 128
My word count and page count are right on track for my expected outcome of about 230 to 240 pages and less than or up to 80k words. :D
While writing a manuscript is one of the most exciting parts of writing a novel (for me, anyway), I have always found that getting the first chapter going is difficult.
It isn’t so much that I don’t know where to start, not right away. I always know how I want a book to start, but what inevitably happens is I’ll start chapter 1, and either partway through or after chapter 1 is complete, I’ll go “I don’t like that” and find that my instinct is usually right-on about it.
It happened with every novel I’ve written in the past, including the defunct 2004 Sword of the Dragon, the more recent The Sword of Dragons, and its sequel Burning Skies. In fact I have 3 different versions of the prologue of The Sword of Dragons, and I restarted chapter 1 at least twice.
Chapter 1 – A Matter of Perspective
As I’ve written on here before, I had originally decided to start Chronicles of the Sentinels out from the perspective of Thomas Walker, the 51 year old leader of the Sentinels. However, when I started today on the manuscript, I was only two pages in when I realized this was a mistake.
Why? Walker treats the Sentinels like a military unit, despite the fact that most of his team doesn’t have a military background. And the intent was to start the novel with the Sentinels chasing after disciples of Nabu.
Then I realized that if this was the first thing readers saw in the novel, they’d think it was a military thriller, and I’d probably turn away a lot of my target audience. Bad move. I don’t want to alienate my audience in chapter 1!
So I started thinking about how I wanted to actually start the novel. I realized that I wanted to start with action because I was used to writing epic high-fantasy novels. With TSOD, book 1 starts with the protagonist trying (and failing) to take on a pair of orcs by himself. Book 2 starts with him taking on an army of orcs by himself (successfully.)
With Chronicles, the tone of the story is supposed to be quite different, and while there is an epic tone to the overlaying plot, it also is supposed to be a much more down-to-earth (literally) tale.
Chris Tatsu – Ordinary College Student
One of the appeals for some types of YA fiction is that the protagonist and his or her friends are ordinary people (or seem like ordinary people at first) that are then thrown into extraordinary circumstances (please pardon the cliche.)
So I looked to examples of existing YA, including page 1 of Hunger Games (I didn’t know it was a 1st-person novel, haven’t read it yet) and one a friend mentioned, Fever 1793. They gave me an idea.
And so page 1 was written, not from Tom’s perspective, but from Chris’s perspective, as he walks out of one of his last finals, fearful that he failed it. It focuses on the character, and that is exactly what I wanted. As I progressed through the chapter, I was able to introduce Alycia in a context I liked, followed by Emmi. They are ordinary college students who are living their lives, which I hope will allow readers to be able to connect with them.
By the end of the first chapter, the stage is set for the coming events: the trio are invited to a party a well-known rich kid is hosting. They have no idea what awaits them at that party…
This does change the timeline a bit, and I’ll have to do some re-arranging and story changing to the chapter outline, but that’s okay. I’ve said it before, if your instincts tell you something doesn’t feel right and you come up with another idea, it’s probably for a good reason.
I haven’t finished chapter 1 yet, I spent a lot of the hours I was at Starbucks brainstorming how to better start the novel, but they were hours well spent. Once I get a better feel for the story and get past chapter 1, I’m anticipating the words will flow out more smoothly :)
On the bright side, in the “My Novels” page, I was able to change the status of Chronicles!
In just two days, I completed the entire chapter outline for Chronicles of the Sentinels!! Holy cow!
My original plan was to wait until this weekend to start the chapter outlines, but yesterday my imagination was just teeming with ideas about how scenes would play out and how the novel would form up, so I started yesterday morning before work, worked on it every chance I got yesterday and today, and today after work, I went to Starbucks and finished the last few chapters.
As it stands now, CotS is going to be 25 chapters. I have no idea what the word count or page count will be, but if I had to guess, I’d say word count will come to be about 70,000ish. That puts it right where it should be for a first-time author trying to get a YA novel published. Also the number of chapters could increase as I write the novel: that happened with The Sword of Dragons – Burning Skies, I added I think 4 new unplanned chapters to it while I wrote it :)
CotS (or should I just always spell it out?) will be a 3rd person limited perspective story. Common examples are most of the oldest Star Wars Expanded Universe novels or Harry Potter. Descriptions will be “He did this” or “She said that” type of thing.
Just as I’ve done for The Sword of Dragons, every chapter will remain in one character’s point of view, meaning the perspective will not jump from one character to another within a chapter. However from one chapter to the next, the perspective will change often.
For instance, Chapter 1 will be from the Sentinels’ leader, Tom’s, perspective. Chapter 2 will be from Chris’s. Other characters whose perspectives I will write from will be Emmi and Alycia. Chris is the main character, so the majority of chapters will be written from his perspective, however Emmi will also be prominent in this novel.
Tomorrow I’ll be transcribing the chapter outlines from my journal to the computer.
Then CotS officially moves out of Pre-Writing – I will start writing the actual manuscript!!!! For those who read my blog articles about my writing process, you’ll know that this is my favorite part of writing a novel!
For The Sword of Dragons – Burning Skies, when I reached this stage, I only wrote on weekends. I would go to Starbucks on Saturdays or Sundays (or sometimes both in a single weekend) and would spend about 4 or 5 hours writing. This allowed me to complete the novel in about 3 months or so.
For Chronicles, I intend to write much more frequently! Not just because this story has me extremely excited, but because I want to start writing more like it’s a career rather than a weekend hobby. That’s why I’ve been working on Chronicles almost every single day since I first came up with the idea.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, its that while success in one’s endeavors is not always guaranteed by hard work, the harder you work, the more likely you are to succeed. I want this. I want to write for a living. So I am going to work my butt off to get there!
So, if all goes according to plan, Chronicles will officially move out of Pre-Writing this Saturday. Keep an eye on this blog, cause I’ll definitely let you all know how it progresses! And in case you didn’t notice, a couple of days ago I placed a new link on the top menu of my blog for “My Novels” There’s a description and status of every novel I’ve completed or am working on!
As promised, here’s the next part of How I Write My Novels. If you missed part 1, click here!
Writing the First Draft
There’s no other way to say it, I love this part more than any other! With all of the pre-writing done, I pick up my laptop, go to my favorite Starbucks, and I start writing from the very beginning.
Usually what happens is I have two windows up, one with my transcribed plot progression (not sure if synopsis is quite the right word) and the other is which ever chapter I am working on at the time. As I go along, if I need a reminder about where I am taking the story or characters in that chapter, I look back at the other window, and then I continue writing.
For The Sword of Dragons I also have other documents on my laptop that have basic descriptions of who characters are, major cities or other locations, and descriptions of certain objects. These files help me to ensure I keep continuity within the novel as well as from one novel to the next. They are what are called “living documents,” I update them as I go along, they are constantly changing. I have the feeling I’ll soon have something similar for my new novel :)
This is also the part when I get to know my characters the best. All of the little nuances, all of the reactions, the emotions, this is when they come out, as I write the story. I find that I can’t really plan these too well, because then they come out feeling artificial. They just happen!
When the characters move me and drive me, that is when my best work is done. I also discovered in The Sword of Dragons book 2 that my chapter outlines are not hard and fast rules. If I have ideas to change or add things in as I go along, I do not hesitate, because when I do this, it’s usually my unconscious mind saying “this is boring, but do it this way instead, and it’ll be better!” For instance, book 2 was originally supposed to be 36 chapters (not counting the prologue and epilogue) but when I finished writing, it ended up with 4 additional unplanned chapters!
Since I’m not yet living off of writing (although that has become my goal), I can’t do this every single day, so I usually end up going to Starbucks every Saturday or Sunday (or sometimes both) and I spend at least 4 hours there writing. This usually lets me get at least 2 chapters done, depending on their length, but when I’m on a roll and the writing takes on a life of its own, I can write upwards of six chapters!
The point is, I write on a schedule. I do this for a few reasons, first of all because I love to write so I don’t mind writing on the weekends :) But second, if I don’t write regularly and just treat it like a ‘whenever’ kind of thing, I’ll start to slack of for whatever reasons. This keeps me going, keeps me from falling behind. This allowed me to completely write book 2 of The Sword of Dragons in just a handful of months! Imagine if I could do this full time! :)
The First and Second Proofread
Note that not once did I mention proofreading while writing the first draft. I used to do that, I used to write a chapter, and then stop and re-read that chapter to proofread, but I attribute this, at least in part, to the troubles I had writing my first couple of novels (including the one I finished in 2004 and will never see the light of day!!)
That is because it interrupts the flow of storytelling. Not everyone might experience that or agree with me on this, but I strongly advise against stopping to proofread every chapter.
Once the first draft is complete, I’ll usually let it sit for at least a few days while I allow the high of completing a full novel to wear off :) My first proofread is done on the electronic version, on my laptop or desktop PC.
Reading something electronically is an entirely different experience than reading a hard-copy, or at least it is for me. My first read-through of my manuscript usually results in minor changes, some typo and grammar fixes, etc. But once I print out the manuscript for the second read-through, I go to town on it! Figuratively speaking…
I don’t actually do this right away, once I finish my first proofread (which I seem to do in a couple of days) I let the novel sit for at least a couple of weeks. This gives me some distance from the story and characters, so that I can come at it with a fresh perspective.
When I’m ready for round two, I print it out, and I read it with a red pen in hand. That red pen also acts as my bookmark, because I find reading the hard-copy takes me a lot longer. I don’t know why I go slower, but it also means I catch a lot of things I didn’t catch before. I also write in notes for any additional paragraphs or sentences or scenes I want to add. Some of the pages look pretty red by the time I’m done with them!
I can’t stress this enough to all writers: don’t be afraid to make big changes to your manuscript during your proofreads! If your mind is saying something doesn’t work, trust your instinct!
The final parts are pretty cool, in that I get to have eyes-on it from others. While I saved this part for last, beta reading can be done at any time after completion of the manuscript. For book 1, I let friends read it only after it was a polished product. For book 2, I sent the chapters to my friends as I finished them, and then sent revisions during the 1st proofread. (I’m still working on proofread #2).
Thank you to my friends Nick and Natalie for being my beta readers for two novels now. You two are awesome!!
Be warned: your beta readers might have things to say that you don’t want to hear. But remember that they don’t know the story inside and out like you do, and if they say something seems wrong or is off or is confusing, so will almost every other reader out there. Heed their feedback!!
When all is said and done, I usually do one more hard-copy proofread, and inevitably find more typos, grammar errors, etc. Since I don’t have an editor, this is the part when the manuscript is fairly polished, and is ready for query letters to be sent out.
To be honest, without an editor, you could proofread for the rest of your life and still find things to improve. There comes a time when you have to call it good and start to try to find an agent. Don’t let your work become stale or stuck in ‘proofreading hell.’
I’ve heard some folks say that they start to feel down after they’ve finished writing a manuscript, like coming down from a high, but by diving into the proofreading, I find I really don’t have that sensation. Especially since by the time I’m on proofread #2, I’m already deep into fleshing out the story for my next novel :D
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed these articles!
So I’m curious if any other writers out there have a favorite type of music they listen to while they write? Or a favorite artist/composer? Do you change up music depending on what kind of scene you write? For that matter, do you listen to music while you write?
Most of my writing these days is done at Starbucks and I usually don’t take my headphones with me. So that means whatever music they have on at Starbucks, that’s my soundtrack.
But there are exceptions. For instance for The Sword of Dragons book 1, when I wrote the last 4 chapters, all of which covered the final epic battle of the novel, I had assembled a playlist of my favorite battle songs from movies and video games. The songs in this list included:
Suicide Mission – Mass Effect 2
The Battle – Gladiator
Tenrai Divinity (parts 1 and 2) – Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children
Scorponok – Transformers
The Black Gate Opens – Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
There were more but those are the highlights :) One of my all-time favorite albums to listen to while writing is Adiemus. The very first album they did, anyway.
So everyone, please tell me what music inspires you! Whether its for writing, arts and crafts, or what have you, post it here! I’m very curious to know what everyone’s soundtrack is :)
Today I went to Starbucks and did something I haven’t done in what feels like a really long time: I read a novel.
I don’t think I’ve said it yet in my blog, but Starbucks is my favorite place to go to work on my stories! For some reason I seem to have a hard time focusing on writing when I’m at home, but when I’m there, I somehow become more focused on writing.
Also lately I have been studying for an IT certification I need for my current day-job. Between these two items, where has that left my pleasure reading? Non-existent.
For someone who’s been an avid reader for as long as I can remember, that realization kind of startled me. The last time I just read for pleasure was when I was waiting for my flight at the airport a couple of month ago. Insane!
So it made me realize something, and I want to pass this revelation (perhaps words of wisdom?) on to fellow writers and, for that matter, everyone: take the time to read. Make the time to read!
For anyone, writer or not, if you enjoy reading, do what you can to find time, even if it’s just fifteen minutes, to read! Many of you may be doing that now: reading blog articles could be what refuels you.
It is so easy to let the craziness of life take control, and you might start to miss out on your favorite ‘past-times.’
Reading Fuels Writing
For writers specifically, I believe this to be essential! I can’t speak for all writers, but for me I find a lot of inspiration in written work. Movies, music, and other media too, but being someone who creates stories out of words, reading is one of my fuel sources!
Reading other writers’ works can give you ideas on how to change or improve your own writing style, it can give you ideas on characters, settings, details. Reading novels is, in a way, like reading a how-to book. You should never copy another writer’s style, but you can learn from it, and take what you like from it, and morph it into your existing style. Essentially, make it your own!
Let your imagination run wild by reading stories that you haven’t told! Especially if you are stuck on a part in your story and don’t know how to get by it. In fact, let me re-type that in bold:
If you are stuck with your story, put it down for a while and read someone else’s story!
I have found this helps me a lot in the past. Even if what I’m reading doesn’t provide me with a method of getting past that part of my own story, it relaxes me. When it comes to writing, I do my best work when I’m not stressed out!
So do yourself a favor: take time off to just read. And remember, when you’re reading another author’s novel, you’re supporting them. Maybe someday they’ll be able to return the favor for you :)
Trials and triumphs of writing, finding an agent, and publication.