Another day, another chapter down. Getting closer and closer and as I do, I've starting thinking about that various ways The Paladin could go when I'm done with this. I have a few characters in the book that are really stand out and I thought it'd be neat to pursue their stories as I continue. I think I may, audience interest pending, put it up to my readers to tell me which character they liked best and what story they'd like to see told next.
Of course, I need to start writing the next story the moment I'm done with this one, so it's more likely that my third or fourth book would be fan decided. This second one, however, still has a few ways it could go. But... how do I talk about that here without giving away spoilers? Well... let's see. One idea will follow directly from the end of this book, being a true, direct sequel. Another is a prequel idea that chronicles Reagan's days in the Paladin Academy. A third deals with a batch of new recruits at a new Paladin parish. Yet another is darker, more adult story that will follow a hunter in the world of the paladin.
So, I've got a lot of ways to go. I mean, I've already finished off two short stories (links on the main page) within The Paladin's universe. I talked a little bit about the potential of doing a bestiary from the point of view of Katie, one of the masons in my novel. I just don't know where to go.
I suppose too many ideas is a good problem to have. Hopefully, if I get published, my agent will help me come up with the next story I should tell. If not, well, I guess I'll just start writing and see what happens.
Another day, another chapter down. There's a light at the end of this editing tunnel. Every time I stop to do a rewrite, I wonder if I'm ever going to get done, but I know as long as I push forward, I can do it.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time? How do you whittle down an oversized novel? One word at a time. One page at a time. One chapter at a time. I know that as long as I've come out today with more work put in than yesterday, I'm moving toward that goal. It's motivation.
And you know what else is motivation? Something just as strange as my novel feeling real is happening on Twitter. You see, I managed to gain the bulk of my followers when I started this endeavor from my old job. I was a photojournalist for a news stations in Las Vegas and, fortunately, the web team liked me, so when I tweeted something new related, like a fire I was filming or a charity carwash I interviewed someone for, my station's web team retweeted it. Slowly, the people that followed my station began following me. It was a good base.
Now, a crap ton of them dropped me. I don't blame them. I'm not in Las Vegas and I don't tweet about news. They have no reason to follow me anymore. They're not going to hear about the gubernatorial race in Nevada or the latest big event going down at the Las Vegas Convention center from my feed. But... slowly but surely, all those lost followers are being replaced by people from the literary community. I have readers. And editors. And published authors. And every once in a while, someone says something nice, something encouraging, and I think "yeah... I am a writer. I can do this."
So I'm pushing forward. I don't want to give up on this crazy dream of being published. I don't want to stay where I am in life forever. I have people cheering me on. I have people that believe I can do this. And you know what, for the first time since I started this crazy trip, I really think I can.
Don't Forget to be Awesome!
Today was a decent day for editing. Managed to shave my word count down by a small amount and, most importantly, I rewrote a stale scene while still managing to cut words.
It's a sour feeling every time I come up to scene that's a little lackluster. My whole point right now is to cut those words, but rewrites invariably seem to mean adding words. I'll read and re-read the same scene, trying to figure out what the essence of the story is. I'll mull it around in my brain over and over trying to figure out what's important, what I need to make sure is in there, and then the long process of rewriting begins.
I've been fortunate enough to have a net loss of words, but it's still not enough. I'm hoping that I can go through on a strictly word cutting edit next and take out a ton of little words. If you didn't know, you can get a decent chunk removed by cutting very specific words that ad nothing to the plot. "That," "really," "very," "just," and so many more little words don't add to your novel and can be removed. In a 140k word manuscript, taking all of them out can have an amazing outcome.
On a different note, it's about time to start getting people together for my next beta read. I've been fortunate enough to get a few good people together for my last reading group, but as I near completion of this edit, I'll need people to read the whole thing. So... if you're interesting, I have a form on the contact page, but you can also hit me up in the comments here or on social media.
The strangest thing that's happened to me as I've neared completion of The Paladin is how real things are starting to feel to me. I've had what I've heard called "impostor syndrome" for a while, where no matter what I do, I don't feel like I belong there. But as this book inches closer and closer, things have happened. Strange things.
For one, I actually have had dreams about my novel. Not about writing it or editing it. About the characters in it. Like I would over a television show or a movie. Then, I started considering what I might do for marketing The Paladin, and two ideas struck me that made me look at everything as real. First, that I'd probably start a Patreon to help support me as I write the next book (depending on how publishers treat me) and that I could offer special rewards to Patrons, like "Katie's Bestiary Manual," a complete guide to all the creatures in The Paladin as dictated by Mason Katie Hooper.
If that wasn't enough, I started thinking about some friends of mine, specifically the good dudes over at Smash Fiction, and was mentally sorting them into Paladin disciplines like someone might sort into a Harry Potter house. I thought, "Wow, putting out a personality quiz might be a cool way to promote the book once I'm ready to publish!"
These are things real authors think about. And you know what, I'm inching toward being one, too. Maybe then these thoughts will be normal and not just a strange musing.
Be Excellent to Each Other.
I'm on the home stretch for this edit, which means good things and bad alike. First off, the story is looking great. Initial reads are positive and the changes seem to be helping. I'm happy to streamline so much and cut out the chaff, but that leads to the next problem. I haven't cut enough. Not even close.
At the rate I'm going, a generous estimate is that I'll shave off another 5,000 words. I need to shave off closer to 15,000. I'm looking at the page count coming down and down as I reach closer and closer to the end, but that word count is still atrociously high. Now, some of my readers have said they like it this length. They don't think anything was particularly excess and, for fantasy, that's to be expected. There's an entire world to build, so novels like mine tend to tip the scales a bit. Unfortunately, as I've said before, publishers aren't keen on taking a chance with such a high word count. More words equals higher printing costs.
This isn't an issue if I decide to self-publish. E-books can be huge and I can dictate the price. No one cares if an e-book is too massive because it's the same cost, either way. And, from what I've been told, print doesn't make up a big part of a book's profit these days, anyway. Everyone seems to be doing digital. Nice to know if things go south on this traditional publishing route.
Still, I need to cut words, so here's what I'm looking at. I need to go back into the work, right out every scene's synopsis again (since a lot have changed in this edit) and set them all out on a board. It's like when I was storyboarding at the beginning of this novel. Only this time, I'm figuring out what the plot can stand to lose.
Each of these cards or sticky notes will have a synopsis, characters, and major plot elements that are revealed labeled on them. Heck, I might even put the word count for each on there, too. Then I'll have to sort through each scene and peel away the ones that I can afford to lose without affecting the story.
It's painful. It's tedious. It's nowhere near as fun as writing. But I need to do this so I can move forward. And, hey, once I'm rich and famous, I'll have access to free editors who'll focus on this stuff so I can focus on writing, right?
Don't Forget to be Awesome!
I've talked about it before, but this blog is about what I'm writing today. And today, I'm examining one of my character's motivations to see if it's changed since I implemented all my edits.
It's weird looking at work that happened months ago. Sometimes, I see something and I grin and think "Damn, I wrote that? Go me." Often times I cringe and shudder and start hitting the delete key as fast as I can. Today, I'm just curious. I'm looking at the actions of one of my side characters who's important to the plot and wondering what they're thinking.
It's been said that every character has a motivation in every scene, even if it's just to get a drink of water. It's a silly thought, but it's true. So I'm looking at this character as I'm editing and I'm thinking "wait... has their motivation changed?" It's something I have to evaluate and re-evaluate constantly. Every read through means double checking that people are consistent in character, in dialogue, and especially in motivation.
I think I'm happy with what I'm doing with this character that moment (pronoun games confirmed) and their motivations seem to be on par for the long run, but this specific scene I'm working on needs some serious consideration. The scene is structurally fine, but this character's actions are no long in line with their motivations. I know the reader might not notice it, but I certainly did. Which means a long night of rewrites for me that, hopefully, will be a noticeably better product for the reader.
Freakin' A. Thirty weeks in a row without missing a day. I'm thrilled with what I'm doing with this blog and website and I hope you guys are going to like the end product. That said, it's time for Paladin Playlist Number 30!
I seem to follow a pattern on this blog when it comes to the playlist. Song 1, something hard and in your face to emphasize the dark nature of the story and the dire straights my characters get into. Song 2, something light and cheery to bring back a shard of humanity. Well, this is the latter. Diana Krall's rendition of PS I Love You.
Why this song? Of everything I listen to while writing an urban fantasy novel with lots of demonic creatures, dark overtones, and some downright bloody scenes? Because this novel isn't just about the gore. It's about the life these people lead and sometimes that means just being alive. Not everyday of a police officer's life is gun shots and high speed chases. So, too, are the Paladins. And this humanizing, gentle song helps me capture that, despite everything that's going on with these people, they still live their lives.
I have to thank my high school friend and first college roommate for introducing me to Diana Krall. This song with her incredible voice just brings a calm that is hard to put into words. Where other songs talk about challenges, fighting, blood, and sacrifice, this song just talks about someone missing their loved one. Hell, the most exciting lyric in the song is "I burned a hole in the dining room table." That might turn some off, but that's precisely what I'm looking for when I listen to this. Simplicity. Yearning to be with someone. It's something that all characters, whether they kill vampires or kill roaches, can identify with.
Please enjoy Diana Krall's PS I Love You (on that note, I tried really hard to find an official release on YouTube for this, but both channels connected to Diana seem to only feature her new work. So... enjoy this random channel!)
I was listening to the Writing Excuses podcast today and I heard something that struck close to home. They were talking about reasons that characters might come across as "flat" or "cardboard," and I figured I'd share with you. Mainly, I want to share the thing I'm most guilty of. It's something one of the hosts called "Dialogues from the Boneyard."
I'm in the process of editing right now, which means a bunch of stuff I wrote is headed to the cutting room floor. One of the hosts of the podcast referred to this as "The Boneyard." You cut something, you stick in a file for later perusal. Who knows? You might be able to reuse scenes or good lines from that cut material, so no sense in just deleting it. Here's the problem though. Sometimes the things that define your side characters come from these dialogues, come from this cut content.
Now, what makes them a fully fleshed out character is still in your head. Just because you cut the scene doesn't mean it isn't influencing your vision of who they are. The problem is that your reader doesn't have that benefit. If you took out the scene where a side character mentions they're pursuing a law degree because their father was convicted of a crime he didn't commit, well, then the reader doesn't know. You'll remember their noble and that the law degree means everything to them, but the reader just knows, "Oh, yeah, they want to be a lawyer for some reason."
This goes hand in hand with the entry I had a week ago about fixing my own point of view. I have to constantly check my work and make sure I'm including everything that the reader needs. Obviously I know why characters are amazing, but I can't expect my reader to be psychic.
What a week! I had a blast, but it's time to get back to work. The Paladin isn't going to edit itself!
So, seeing as how it's Earth Day, let's talk about world building. One of my favorite things about a new story is world building. Do you start large and do an entire world? Do you keep it tight and put your character in Smalltown, USA? Either way, I feel like the techniques to create worlds are the same, it's really just a matter of scale.
If you're out there and you're wanting to start you're own story, world building needs to be paramount. A good setting can be its own character, can act as an obstacle, or can give the story a cohesive feel. If you make a good enough setting, having several stories in it can create a thread for the reader, giving them something familiar.
But the biggest thing is, your story has to make sense, therefore, your world building must make some sense. If your medieval village is out in the desert, you better have a good reason for the bountiful crops they harvest. If you decide to build a city over a river, well, that's neat, but why? Was there a reason the land wasn't suitable? If so, what was so inviting about the river that someone said "You know, I love this place so much, I'm living here even if I have to build on the river itself!"
That river village better have a healthy fishing community. And if every man, woman, and child doesn't know how to handle a boat, you're going to risk your reader not buying into your world. Oh! Your city is built into a mountain? They use a complex system of pulleys and ziplines to get around? That's awesome! Where do they plant their crops on all those rock faces? What about water?
Please don't take this as a condemnation of creative setting writing. I want to see people put their cities on the backs of flying turtles! I want to see villages that exist inside hollowed, giant trees and use the branches and root systems as a road system. I just want to be able to fully immerse myself in that world. I want to be able to ignore the flaming city not engulfing the citizens, but I might have trouble if you tell me it's has an amazing clothing district but doesn't have any logical source of fabric.
These are a little bit exaggerated, but I think you get the point. Walk through your world and give it the attention it deserves. You'd be surprised how much your world can influence the story if you give it a life of its own.
Be Excellent To Each Other
My time at the Con is over and now it’s time for a very long drive home. I had a blast and got to see some of my best friends I haven’t seen in forever.
A big thanks to everyone that put me up (and put up with me.) We out put on a great panel and I can’t wait for the next one.
Unfortunately all things must come to an end and I have a lot of editing to catch up on. I’m ready and refreshed, so let’s dive in!
Book related stuff is back tomorrow. Until then, DFTBA!
Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.