The Woods at the End of the World: Sneak Peek

WoodsCover.jpg

The Woods at the End of the World will be my second full-length novel. It explores the importance of owning your identity, platonic bonds, and finding meaning. It’s also about recognizing, but pushing through, anxiety. “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” —George Addair

It’s tentatively scheduled for a June 19th release date.

In the meantime, you can read the opening right now:


The Archive: Year 17, Day 141

To the girl who dreamed herself to death,

I know you aren’t coming back. I’ve known for a while, I think. I wonder if you miss me as much as I miss you. Maybe that’s just my own dream. Maybe there’s nothing left of you but a body decaying deep in the Woods. I don’t believe in other worlds—in this life or after—the way you did. Your mind, with all of those hopes and stories and songs is just gone. That mind that—I used to believe, at least—loved me. All of that is so incredibly sad. So sad that sometimes I think I might crumble into myself until I disappear, just like you. Other times I think it’s only my heart that will shatter—that one day I’ll wake up and never be able to feel anything again. I’d like that.

Since you’ll never actually read this, I’ll be honest: I hate you. I hate you for leaving me and Mama. When you rambled on about wanting to see the world beyond the Woods, I thought you were only making up stories. When you made up stories, I thought you were only trying to escape from Haven in your own safe way. When you stared past the fence, I thought you were only daydreaming. Even when you screamed…I told you it was only nightmares.

I’m sorry. I should have stopped you. The world that mattered was the world we shared together, not one that had long since ended. You were so much of my world once.

You ended that world, too.

I hate you, I really do. I can’t believe how much we lived through only so you could throw it all away on a fantasy. I don’t know that I’ll ever forgive you. I do hope you’ll forgive me for not saving you. Or rather, I wish there was still a you to forgive me. I wish you’d let me know how much you’d needed saving. Most of all, I wish you’d saved yourself.

I’d like to think there is a chance that you made it through the Woods. That a better world really did wait for you. That you’re alive and happy. That you made your dreams come true.

But then I’m the one dreaming. And if there’s one thing you taught me, dear sister, it’s the danger in dreaming.

Goodbye, Moon.

With love and hatred too,

Sun

Note to the Archive’s eventual readers: forgive me for this display of emotion. I couldn’t tell my sister what I wanted to say, so I had to tell someone. I will return the Archive to its regular format with the next entry.

 

Prologue: Sisters

I’ve never heard my sister scream like this. I wasn’t even sure it was her at first—some poor animal, perhaps, torn apart by a predator in the Woods. But I’ve heard Moon’s voice every day of my life. I know the way her voice cracks on the high notes, the way her low notes ring like bells. I recognize the quiver in that cry—amplified by thunderous magnitudes in the stillness of Haven house tonight.

I fly through the hallway, past Mama’s locked door and the attic’s ladder and the empty closets. It all seems so different in the late night dark—too long, as if I’ll never reach her. My heart hammers as fast and loud as my footfalls. I wish she and I still shared a room—that she hadn’t moved to the old study on the far end of the second story, filled with books and dust and big windows that overlook the Woods at the end of the world. I swear I can hear the branches creaking outside even through the moans of the house and the pounding in my skull, as if Moon’s cries disturb them as much as they frighten me. Why did she—not want to stay with me?—have to pick the room the farthest away from mine?

“Moon!” I let out a cry of my own as I throw open her door.

[Read more…]

Glass Preview

Normally, I’d post a poem this second Monday of the month, but March 11th happens to be the protagonist’s birthday in one of my novel/game projects, Glass. It never fails that I end up thinking about this particular story on this particular day, so here’s an excerpt from the novel version:


12/22/10

Entry 1: Lost Boy

10/04/00

If Heaven is a real place, can I go there?

-Ervay

Cold. Why was it so cold?

I couldn’t tell. I opened my eyes – or were they already open? – and saw nothing but black. There was no sky. There was no soil. I stretched out my arms. I felt nothing. Nothing but a chill that tingled along the outline of my body. My fingers trembled. My legs shook. A shiver raced up my spine and pounded at the top of my scalp.

Wait. There was something. I noticed the roaring of the river for the first time. Why hadn’t I heard it before? Had it been my mind or my ears lagging behind? I still don’t know. Maybe the blackness outside was seeping inside. Maybe it was coming in through my ears. Maybe it was traveling over my tongue. Maybe it was bleeding in beneath my eyes, crawling into my veins, and painting over the white of my skull. Maybe it was clogging up my thoughts as well as my senses.

I looked around again at nothing. I needed to get away. If I was asleep, I needed to wake up.

The water was loud. Close. But no matter how much I searched, it wasn’t there. My hands couldn’t touch it. My eyes couldn’t find it. I could breathe, so I wasn’t beneath it.

Perhaps it was just an illusion, after all. Perhaps it wasn’t even there.

Or perhaps it was me who wasn’t there at all.

“Er…vay!”

My head jerked in the direction of the noise. My pulse crashed against my ribs. That single word pierced the black. My name.

Should I have recognized that voice? For a fleeting second, I almost believed I had, but then that faint tint of familiarity was gone. It passed right through my hazy head, lingering only on the edge that emptiness failed to permeate.

Whoever it belonged to, they were frightened. Terribly frightened. I’d never heard so much dread before.

“D…o…n’t… Go…!”

Don’t go? But I had to go. I certainly couldn’t stay!

“Don’t go!” the voice begged, as if it were arguing with my thoughts. It was a scream. The type of wail that cuts off as a heart stops beating forever.

I didn’t move.

“Ervay…!”

They were calling for help. They were calling me for help.

My throat condensed with a heavy swallow. “Where are you?”

No answer. The nothing ate my noise. Could the stranger hear me at all? That thought sucked the voice right out of me.

“Ervay!”

My stomach tightened. I needed to save them. I wanted to save them.

But somehow, I knew that I couldn’t.

My own dread drummed in my heart and drowned out the river’s rumbles. “Hey, who – ”

[Read more…]

Night Plague (2018 Edition) Out Now!

Hey all, sorry for the recent hush here. I’ve been scrambling to meet my June goals, but I’m happy to announce that one of them is finished. An updated and re-published version of my first novel, Night Plague, is out in the world and ready for reading!

Night_Plague_Cover_for_Kindle

Humankind will soon be extinct.

 A mysterious pandemic cut through two-thirds of the population in just four short years, and within another four, it will decimate everything – and everyone – left. As the last days tick by, relentless and ruthless, the reclusive Mason Mild finds himself torn between a peaceful end and a brutal immortality. Between his hopeless, but comfortable days with his family, and something new…something violent and wild.

Have the fang marks above his heel dealt him an early demise or a second birth?”

Check it out on Amazon
Download Free from my Email List

If you feel like adding a few extra vampires and a dash of end of the world dread to your summer, you can find both digital and paperback versions on Amazon, or get a hold of a free digital copy through my email list. If you opt to give it a go, enjoy!

Paragon Preview

(Friday Updates: I’ll post updates from my projects every other Friday).

Well, school is over for the summer, but with over 5 books in various stages of (near) completion and 3 indie games in the works, I’ll be staying busy.

I’d like to share an excerpt from Paragon, a dark fantasy thriller and my favorite child longest standing novel project, for the first time.


CW: violence, blood, death

End of Summer

“Tell me, what is it like to die?” the woman hissed, so close that the man tasted the heat of her words. “I’ve always wondered.”

The man couldn’t breathe. Pain pulsed up through his spine and tied knots around his lungs. He lay on his stomach, wet grass cooling his dry tongue.

Every instinct told him to pull out the chakram embedded in his back, but he couldn’t. His body simply wouldn’t work anymore. The wound itself wasn’t particularly deep, but it burned. It burned like he’d been gouged by fire instead of a blade. It burned, and then it was cold. Cold like there was nothing left of his tingling skin at all. He shuddered, fresh blood trickling down his sides with each tiny movement.

Memories from the last few moments flickered in and out through black haze. Even as his fellow soldiers had fled, he hadn’t. He’d charged that woman – the one who’d sliced his brother nearly in half – out of anger. Blind, desperate, stupid anger.

Her circular blade had blocked his dagger. She’d stopped him, sent him stumbling, and thrown the chakram after him. His armor had already worn away through the hours of combat, and the weapon had buried itself into him without mercy.

What a childish mistake. A Lyrum should never confront a Human, not physically. He should have guarded his distance and relied on his Translation instead, if only the long struggle hadn’t exhausted his strength to summon it. He’d let his rage take hold of him. He was a fool.

The Human approached the Lyrum soldier, fallen leaves crunching beneath her boots and signaling the end of summer. Her paced movements belied the chaos of just minutes earlier. It seemed the conflict was nearing its end.

“I suppose it’s foolish to ask you about something so frightful as death when you don’t feel fear in the same way Humans do,” the soldier’s voice was as calm and dissonant as her body. “You’re lucky, really, even if that makes my job less satisfying.”

She yanked the weapon from his back, spurting blood splattering her stained armor.

The Lyrum snarled, “you’re the one who feels nothing! I don’t know what kind of soul you have that lets you do this, but it’s one that has much more to fear from death than mine.”

The Human laughed, “why would I be afraid when I have nothing to lose?”

Her boot slammed into his skull.

The Lyrum’s teeth clamped shut on his tongue with a screech.

“Tell me,” the Human ordered, “what are you and your kind after? This whole mess was futile from the start. Surely you’re at least intelligent enough to realize that. What were you trying to do?”

The Lyrum glowered up at her, the embers of his hatred smoldering in his eyes.

“Tell me!” she snarled. “Tell me, and I’ll end this quickly. Otherwise, I’ll hear you beg.” Her nostrils flared. “I know how to make you suffer.”

The Lyrum remained silent.

The Human’s fingers clenched around her chakram. “You -”

“Johanne, that’s enough!” a voice ordered from somewhere behind her. “There’s no need for this.”

A Human general strode towards them, a scowl on his face. The gold accents on his armor gave his title away, shimmering under an afternoon sun as beautiful as any other during the first days of autumn.

The woman didn’t look at him. “For creatures that live on instinct, Lyrum make so little sense. It should have fled with the others.” Her dull face lit up, “still, this gives us quite the opportunity.”

She rammed her heel into the Lyrum’s skull a second time, and he rewarded her with a series of sputtered coughs.

“Stop!” the general spat. “Shakaya Johanne, I order you to stop. It’s not going to talk. They never do.”

Shakaya hesitated, but her narrowed eyes never left the Lyrum.

The general’s face hardened, “have at least a little honor. Put the poor thing out of its misery and call it done. I believe it’s the last of them.”

The Lyrum stared at the mud, no longer able to move. It seemed he’d be heading out for Heaven early. He thought one last time of his family in Riksharre, assuring himself they’d be just fine without him. Just fine…

Shakaya glanced up at her general with the gaze of a scolded child. Something flickered behind her blue eyes – something cold – but it faded just as quickly. A smirk took its place, “with pleasure.”

The Lyrum smiled. The second squad should have arrived at the Academy by now. If his comrades succeeded…if they succeeded, then everything would be worth it. He might be a fool, but so were the Humans standing over him.

He closed his eyes. He never saw Shakaya raise the chakram a final time and slam it down where his head met his shoulders.


Thanks for reading. Feel free to chime in with thoughts or comments, or to share excerpts from your own projects in the comments for feedback.

If you’re interested in finding out what happens next, my email list will feature more updates and previews, and discounts when Paragon and my other projects find their way to release.

Yearly Digest?

Whelp, it’s been forever since I updated this blog. The hush hasn’t been a lack of happenings, so much as a lack of time. Primarily, this is because I began attending a new college last fall. When this year’s summer break ends and fall semester starts anew, I’ll be a sophomore at DigiPen Institute of Technology, where I am pursing a Bachelor’s of Arts in Game Design.

Still, I’m going to make an effort to try to keep this place up to date, so to start, here’s a digest of what’s been happening in the past year.

First draft down!

I can happily report that I finally finished the first draft one of my upcoming novels, The Blue Crown. This is the same novel I talked about working on during Camp NaNoWriMo in my final post of 2015, and it so happened that I managed to finish off this draft during this year’s Camp sessions! The Blue Crown, now complete at 104k words, continued to surprise me. I’d expected to struggle and slosh through the final few chapters, but once I sat down and started, the end of the story came easily. This novel still needs a lot of work before it’s ready for readers, but it felt great to finally write ‘the end’ once more.

Final drafts are getting there?

The other novel I’ve mentioned quite a bit in the past, Paragon, is still in the works. I’m about 85% done with the fourth draft, but because of a bunch of plot and character changes, I believe it’s still going to need one more read through. I had hoped to complete the final draft and prepare it for querying before the end of the summer, but it doesn’t seem that’s going to happen. However, I do believe that getting Paragon out there by the end of year is very possible, and that will be my next major goal.

I’ve also already begun to pick at The Blue Crown. It is admittedly a bit of a mess in its current state, but not as much as Paragon was after it’s first draft. There are a few plot holes that need to be plugged and some rough edges that need to be polished, but I actually think there’s a possibility of this one being ready to go before 2017, as well.

That game demo is almost done

As for that demo of Glass, my full-length RPG game project, it’s almost done. It’s taken a hell of a lot longer to get it ready to share than I expected, with lots of little bugs and balance issues rearing their ugly heads, but I’ve also taken the time to add in a bunch of new combat and exploration features that I’m pretty happy with. It’s slow going, partially because I’ve also begun working on a few other game projects and because school kept me busy with game development work as well, but it is getting there. The only thing I have left to do is run through the content several times and make sure everything goes smoothly, from beginning to end.

On that note, if anyone would be interested in doing some pre-release playtesting of the demo, don’t hesitate to let me know. When the time comes, I should be able to offer compensation to those willing to test the game and provide feedback, but I’ll post more about this once it’s ready to go.

New RPG Maker MV projects

The semi-recent release of RPG Maker MV has served as a somewhat productive distraction from several of my other projects. After all, it’s hard to ignore an engine that’s shiny and new.

Right now, I actually have two game projects going in MV. On is a life simulation game mixed with dungeon crawling elements, which is still in its early stages of production. The other…I think I’m going to keep a bit of a secret, for now. However, I do hope to have this one ready for release by the end of 2016, as it’s already in its alpha stage of development.

2016-08-13

A screenshot of one of my MV projects. Hmm…this one looks a lot like Happy Birthday.

Fun with Unity Engine

Aside from RPG Maker, I’ve also invested some time in learning to use the Unity Engine. Actually, this is partially because it’s very similar to DigiPen’s Zero Engine, which is what I’ve been learning and using at school. It seems a shame to not be able to put some of those new skills to use in personal projects, since academic projects, while valuable in their own way, just aren’t the same, and I feel that getting your hands dirty on your own is often actually the easiest way to really learn and grow. So far, I’ve mostly gone through a bunch of different tutorials, but I do have a simple platformer game in the planning stages. Working with a new engine and on a new gameplay genre has admittedly been a breath of fresh air. Unity really is tons of fun.

Academic game projects

Of course, what I’ve spent most of my time with over the past year has been school. DigiPen likes to talk about its rigorous course work, and after freshman year, I can safely say that it isn’t kidding. DigiPen delights in keeping its students busy.

Still, at least the coursework is fun in its own right. While at the school, I’ve actually assisted in the creation of three game prototypes, lead the creation of one complete game, and designed and created several different board games, which was something almost entirely new to me, but surprisingly engaging.

I’ll talk more about these academic games projects, and what the experience at DigiPen has really been like, in a separate post on the topic, but in summary, in my first semester, I did narrative design for an adventure/puzzle game called Push the Button, level design for a puzzle game called Quantum, and narrative design and level design for a puzzle platformer called Artificial Platformer. In my second semester, I was both the lead designer and the lead writer for a murder mystery adventure game…expect it wasn’t a murder mystery because the college’s strict ‘PG’ content rating doesn’t allow murder in its projects, it was about a cookie jar. That was a fun one, in its own dysfunctional way. All of these games were completed in teams, and aside from working on the design of the games’ content and their narratives, I also dabbled with art and sound design, and did a hefty amount of programming and gameplay implementation from scratch, especially with Cookie Jar.

All in all, school has been a really great experience. There are a few things that bother me, such as a couple of sub-par teachers and the school’s general, dismissive attitude towards the subjects of solo projects and narrative design. Personally, I feel solo projects are really important for any game designer/developer in terms of learning who they are as a designer, and in terms of becoming well-rounded. Team projects have their own benefits, for sure, but they aren’t the same as really digging into your own project and facing down your own weaknesses, as well as really building on and discovering your strengths. In a team, it’s too easy to stick to only what you already know. Also, anyone who doesn’t believe that narrative design is an important aspect of game design is out of touch with the game industry and its diverse audiences as a whole, but these topics would also be better off in a different post. Despite these complaints, however, the school has definitely helped me grow as both a game designer and as a person, and I’m looking forward to returning next month.


All of this aside, I’ll update this blog more often during the coming school year. If there is anything you’d especially like to hear about, let me know. Has anyone experienced any exciting happenings since the August of 2015?

 

Back from Camp

WinnerCamp2015-73x73Well, I survived yet another Camp (of the imaginary, NaNoWriMo kind, that is). At least this time I got to take home a winner’s badge after reaching my 35k word goal!

Last month’s writing challenge actually went really well. Choosing to work on the particular WIP that I did (tentatively titled the The Blue Crown) was definitely the right decision. Instead of trying to force myself to work on something that I didn’t particularly want to, I got to have fun messing around with a plot and characters that I enjoy, and write towards a goal that actually felt attainable. I also discovered that I love this WIP a lot more than I thought I did (and oddly, a lot more than I did when I first began the story, back in the November NaNoWriMo of 2013).

Aside from just picking the right project, I also made sure to get a stronger start during the first week, which led into a pretty fantastic second week, too. The momentum managed to push me through some scenes I’d been dreading since 2013, and also led to some new plot directions that I didn’t necessarily have planned on my old, bare bones outline. It was a blast. The third week also went quite well, but I did start dragging my feet a bit during the final one. I ended up having to pull off a marathon final day to reach my 35k goal (at five minutes to midnight!), but, well, maybe it wouldn’t have felt like NaNo without that accidental tradition. At least I finally broke my NaNo losing streak!

Unfortunately, though, while I may have reached my word count goal for the month, I didn’t manage my goal of hitting the end of the manuscript. I realized that that wasn’t actually going to happen fairly early on, though. It seemed plausible in my head, before I actually started writing again, but once I did, all the scenes and chapters ballooned out, taking up much more words and time than I had expected. As of today, The Blue Crown sits at about 85k words total, with 20 completed chapters. There are about 2-3 chapters and an epilogue left to write. In the end, I’m still pretty pleased with the progress I made. I got through some really difficult sections, had a lot of fun, and there isn’t much more left to go before ‘the end’. Now to keep up the momentum… I determined to finish the thing at this point.

DemoEndScreenV1

Finally reached the end point of the demo!

On another note, I’ve also been putting a lot of time into my game project, Glass. Actually, that was one of the reasons that I fell behind during Camp’s final week. Glass is sort of an odd thing – I either have no inspiration for it whatsoever, or I have so much inspiration for it, that I work on it almost to the point of obsession. Inspiration fluctuates for any project, but Glass somehow takes that to its extreme.

It’s such a large-scale project that it sometimes feels a bit endless, but just earlier today, I finally completed the “first draft” of the demo! I still have tons of polishing and playtesting to do, and in particular, I want to work on enhancing the battle system and balancing the combat difficulty, but at least I have a completed backbone to work with. Even then, the demo only covers the first few hours of gameplay, so I’ve still got months of work to do before this whole thing is complete, but it will feel good to finally have something playable to share once the demo is polished up.

Did anyone else participate in Camp last month? If so, how did it go?

Here We Go Again

Camp-Participant-2015-Web-BannerIt’s that time again: Camp NaNoWriMo. After an unsuccessful attempt in April, and a couple of months of letting my projects sit on the back-burner, I really want to invest some time into writing this month, and hopefully reach my goal.

This time, I’m aiming to finish my NaNoWriMo 2013 novel, a rather odd sci-fi suspense story (tentatively titled The Blue Crown), before the end of the month. I set my word-count goal at 35k, but that’s only an estimate, and may be adjusted up or down as the month goes on. What I really want to do is write ‘The End’ on the final page, something I haven’t been able to do for quite a long time, now. This may not be the most practical choice of project, but it’s were my inspiration is, and after making the mistake of trying to force myself to work on a project I wasn’t really interested in last Camp, I’m just going to roll with it this month.

As I mentioned in my last post, I had been doing a bit of editing on the previously completed sections of this particular draft, over the last month and a half or so. That’s the problem with leaving something in hiatus for almost two years – I could barely remember the story events, the character’s personalities and quirks, the upcoming twists…anything, really, especially considering that my old notes were pretty sloppy. I had to read through it, before I could actually start continuing the story.

On the other hand, that actually made it quite amusing to read through. There were plenty of surprises in those 50k words. And most of them were pleasant, actually. There were lots of humorous moments that unexpectedly made me giggle. Some shockingly forward dialogue. An extreme gore scene that goes way beyond anything I’ve written recently. Characters who were much more endearing and complex than I remembered, with some funny quirks that I’d forgotten about. Some pretty slick actions scenes. And there were even some plot twists that managed to catch me off guard.

The story definitely does have its issues, including some plot holes that need to be worked out, and it’s so odd that I’m not sure how I’ll market it, but overall, I think the novel actually has more potential than I gave it credit for back in 2013. I’m hoping I can do the rest of the story justice, this month.

Good luck to anyone else attempting Camp! If you’re still stuck on a project idea, I’d highly suggest dusting off something that’s been sitting there for a while, and taking another look at it. Who knows? You might find a few surprises buried in all those abandoned words.

Spring Summary

Well, I haven’t exactly done a fantastic job of updating this blog regularly. Part of this is because all of my projects have been fairly slow going recently, because honestly, these last couple of months have been fairly difficult. I have a lot going on in my life right now, both positive and negative, and it’s been hard to not so much find the time to write, but to focus on it. Things have been going slightly better recently, though, and I want to stay on top of both my projects and this blog during the summer.

So, in an attempt to catch up, here’s the condensed version of what went on during April and May:

Camp NaNoWriMo

I signed up for Camp with the standard 50k word goal, but it seems I bit off more than I could chew. When I went into Camp, I really wanted to push through and finish one particular novel that I’d started, just to get it out of the way, because, in truth, it’s a project that I don’t enjoy all that much, and I was writing it more for practical reasons (it’s a story with a plot and theme a publisher specifically requested). Turns out, that wasn’t exactly setting myself up for success. Not even the deadlines and motivation of Camp could keep me from procrastinating. After several missed days, I eventually jumped ship completely, and started ‘pantsing’ an entirely new novel. This actually went fairly well, and it was interesting, because this was the first time I’d ‘pantsed’ a story, with no planning whatsoever, for a long time. It felt really different. Nonetheless, while it was fun at first, not having a proper outline did eventually slow me down, and I only managed to reach a combined total of 25k words for the two projects during the month.

So, I lost Camp. For the first time. At least I did learn a few things, I think, about what works and what doesn’t. If this had been during a time when I had been more able to focus on writing, maybe it would have gone better, but I guess not everything always goes according to plan. I do still intend to work on both Camp novels, though. In particular, I’m going to do some proper outlining on the new one, and then get back to work on as soon as possible, as I’m really rather fond of it. The first one I attempted…I’ll continue it, but at a slower, side-project pace.

NaPoWriMo

NaPo went well during the first week, but afterwards, my lack of focus affected it, too, and I ended up dropping out of the challenge, save for the last three days, where I wrote three additional poems to bring my total to ten poems out of thirty. It was fun, but the timing was just really poor. I wish that NaPo wasn’t always the same month as April Camp. Nonetheless, I will more than likely give it another go next year.

Local “Exquisite Corpse” Event

By sheer chance, I happened to be at a local bookstore, and noticed a flyer for an “exquisite corpse” (composite story) writing event that it was holding for Independent Bookstore Day. On a whim, I signed up, and wrote chapter 7 of the composite story at a public desk, with the words displayed on a big projector screen in the middle of the store while I was writing. That was…interesting. I wasn’t particularly satisfied with what I wrote, but for the half an hour time limit, I suppose it wasn’t bad. I still haven’t picked up my copy of the finished book from the bookstore, yet. I’m eager to read the whole thing (I was only allowed to read chapter 6 prior to writing) and see how it sounds, and to see how the next writer continued off of my submission. This was actually really fun, though. I would definitely do something like this again.

The Avon Fanlit Writing Contest

The Avon Fanlit contest is going on at JukePop Serials right now, where anyone who wants to can contribute chapter submissions to an ongoing romance story, based on prompts. I don’t generally write straight-up romance, and doing so is pretty out of character for me, but the contest looked like too much fun to sit out on. I only found out about it 48 hours before the chapter 1 deadline, but I did get my submission finished on time. Chapter 2 is currently open for submissions, but I think I’m going to pass on this one. I will probably pick the contest back up on chapter 3, though, and will probably write at least a couple more of the five total prompts throughout the rest of the spring and summer. It’s actually a pretty neat way to let loose and experiment with writing, and to get some feedback. I’d recommend the contest to anyone with at least a mild interest in – or who’s at least tolerant of – the romance genre.

Other than that, I’ve been taking a bit of a break from my revisions on Paragon, the fantasy novel that I consider my main project. I’ll get back to it soon, but I needed a little change of pace. Instead, I’ve been doing a lot of editing on my 2013 NaNoWriMo novel, and I’m hoping to get both the revisions and the rest of the drafting done on that one before NaNo 2015 rolls around. I’ve been trying to catch up on my serials, as well, and as mentioned in the last post, I’ve also been working heavily on Glass, my game project. Here’s hoping the summer will be productive!

Has anyone else had any big events or struggles during the spring?

Don’t Just Subtract

When I see discussions about editing, the focus often seems to be on refining drafts by polishing material and removing excess content.

I generally consider the first draft the ‘idea draft’. It’s the act of getting the basic, conceptual skeleton down on paper, more than a complete product in itself. Almost invariably, some bad ideas will sneak in with the good ones, as well as plot threads, scenes, and descriptions that were ultimately unnecessary, or left dangling as the plot developed in other directions. While trimming off this extra fat to expose the meat of the story is definitely important, I think that the act of cutting content is sometimes over emphasized.

During the first draft, you will also get to know the story and characters in a way you can’t through outlines and imaginings. The first draft will always be very rough, but it will contain the actual core of the story. Building off this core, instead of simply polishing what’s already there, can lead to some really great, and sometimes unexpected, developments. Your project is now a familiar friend instead of a stranger, and now that you are acquainted, ideas for new scenes and events will likely present themselves as you begin working through the second draft. Not only will there be sections that need trimming, there will also be areas that can be enhanced by adding new content.

In my case, I usually find that my characters really come alive in the second and third drafts, instead of the firsts, and that some of my best character development enters the novel after I’ve already written ‘The End’. In fact, while there are cuts along the way, my overall word counts tend to grow with each draft. (For instance, the first draft of Night Plague was 54k, while the final was 64k, after the addition of another 10k words through a new chapter and a few new scenes.)

While you don’t want to be afraid of cutting content while editing, don’t hesitate to add new scenes, events, or even entire chapters, either. It might require a little extra work to get any new segments up to par, but revision is a phase where some powerful drafting can happen, too. Revising a novel isn’t strictly about polishing or rewriting what’s already there, it’s about enhancing the ideas its made of, and that often requires adding as well as subtracting.