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Posts Tagged ‘writing process’

There are probably things that I should have done today other than what I actually did today, but it is too late to worry about that problem now.

What I did spend a lot of time doing is reading. I decided to catch up on John Scalzi’s blog, and since I wasn’t sure where I left off, I just started with the beginning of April. That seemed like a fairly safe, not too time consuming plan. Silly me. Down the rabbit hole I fell, and gladly.

There have been five Big Idea posts so far this month. Well, actually, there have been six, but I skipped the Wil Wheaton post. The others were from Leah Cypess, Adam Oyebanji, Nancy Werlin, E.C. Ambrose, and John Dodd. I am not familiar with any of these authors, but now I am intrigued by them all. Is every single book the kind of book I like to read? Not necessarily, but that part isn’t important. There are all sorts of books for all sorts of readers out there, which is as it should be. Something piques your interest? Check it out. If it turns out not to be your thing, then put it down and pick something else.

All of the posts dovetailed nicely into my current enthusiasm for learning about storytelling and writing processes. Leah Cypess wrote about how and why she used the same idea twice. She retold the same fairy tale in two different books and from two different points of view. I like retellings. I like different points of view. What really perked up my learning antennae, however, was the part about the difference between writing a story from an adult’s point of view and writing one from a child’s point of view. What can a fully grown person do that, say, an 11 year-old cannot? What are the differences in options and choices?

The first story “Stepsister” is available for free on the author’s web site. Glass Slippers is the new middle grade novel, available at your bookseller of choice. I look forward to reading both. (By the way, Glass Slippers is the second in a series of retellings. The first, Thornwood, is a Sleeping Beauty retelling.)

Braking Day by Adam Oyebanji might not be too high on my reading list because I am not a big fan of space exploration stories, but his line of reasoning for how he developed the story is insightful. It meshes well with the concept I wrote about in my Plan Comes Together post from a few days ago.

He started with a dream he is passionate about and that he would love to make come true and then built the story as a way to make the dream come true. He explains it way better than I am summarizing it, so just go read his post. I like the conflict in the premise, so I downloaded a sample. If I like the writing style and the characters, I will add the book to my list.

E.C. Ambrose followed a similar path to write Drakemaster, except that instead of following and reasoning out a dream, he followed a paper trail of research. He started small, with a footnote referencing a medieval Chinese astronomical clock. That’s a pretty specific starting point, right? His research led him to the rise of the Mongol Empire, which eventually covered more contiguous land than any other empire ever. Needless to say, that was a bit much to cover and too far away from the clock which started him down this path, so he went back to the city where the clock has been built and found the conflict he needed for his story in a rebellion against the Mongols.

The authors describes Drakemaster this way: “A team of rivals in a desperate race across medieval China to locate a clockwork doomsday device. The rest, in this case, isn’t history—it’s the future.” Historical fantasy — sign me up.

Healer & Witch by Nancy Werlin and Ocean of Stars by John Dodd both had to wait their turn, and the books had to wait years between original writing and finishing and publication. They are both labors of love, and they are firsts for their authors. Healer & Witch is Werlin’s first middle-grade novel, and Ocean of Stars is Dodd’s first published novel.

Werlin had to put her story aside (a story which she wrote out longhand by the way) so that she could fulfill a contractual obligation for another book and because she was told at the time that there was another similar book already on the market. (The story sounds pretty unique to me, but I certainly haven’t read everything.) In the end, that story waited patiently in a cabinet for 25 years to be rediscovered as a source of comfort for the author during the pandemic. Of the group, Healer & Witch is the book I am most excited to read. (Yes, I am technically a grown-up, and yes, I love reading books written for all different age groups. A good story and well-drawn characters are worth reading no matter the age group targeted by the author or the marketing team.)

In 2014, John Dodd wrote a million words. A million. In a year. He finished six novels, but the seventh, Ocean of Stars wouldn’t behave and wouldn’t be finished. He put it aside for a while, and then he got some input. Then he worked on it more and got more input. Eventually he wrangled it to completion, and it is now his first published novel.

Based on Dodd’s Big Idea post, I would call the story alternative futuristic historical science fiction. As a space story with time travel, the book doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, but I am going to give it a chance because I am interested in the character Caterina, who sees that the mistakes of the greedy and powerful continue to be repeated and who wants to take the necessary stand to stop it.

Well. So that was a good chunk of my day in a very large nutshell, and I haven’t even gotten to reading the excerpts I downloaded. They need to wait until I get at least one book read this month. I might have more to say once I get that far. In the meantime, if you want to read these and other Big Idea posts, they are all grouped together here, starting with the most recent.

Happy Easter!

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It’s Monday, and my brain is kind of full of work-related learning, so this will be a short post which mostly says, “Watch this video if you are interested in hearing about, among other things, Janci Patterson’s thoughts on co-writing.”

Brandon Sanderson has written several books of a series set in the Cytoverse (as opposed to in the Cosmere, which is where the Stormlight and Mistborn series are set). The fourth book is a collection of novellas which he wrote with Janci Patterson. The video is of a conversation they had about the new book. They talk about writing together, and Patterson talks about other co-written projects she has done as well as different aspects of her writing process.

I found it fascinating and entertaining, so I am sharing. You don’t have to know anything about either author or their books to enjoy the writing part of the discussion (which is most of it).

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There’s a Kickstarter campaign going on that is getting a lot of attention. I am trying and failing to remember how I found out about it in the first place.

Oh! I remember. There was some snarky post in my Twitter feed about *that* Kickstarter, and it didn’t take me long to discover that the epic fantasy author Brandon Sanderson was behind it. The first helpful information I got came from John Scalzi’s Whatever blog. (Scalzi’s books don’t do much for me, but his blog is brilliant — bright, shiny, sharp, witty, and fun. Plus, he does this fabulous thing called The Big Idea where he features the work of other authors. Actually, it is probably more accurate to say that he encourages other authors to feature themselves on his site. It’s great. Go read it.) Then I checked out the Kickstarter campaign, which had already raised millions of dollars (with a stated goal of one million).

The screen shot below is the current tally as I write this post. If I did it correctly, you can click on the image, and it will take you to the live page, and you will get the most current number.

While you are there, you can watch the introductory video and read all about it. It’s an impressive project any way you look at it. There has been a lot of chatter about what it all means for publishing. My opinion is that it means virtually nothing for publishing. Sanderson still works with New York publishers and international publishers. He wanted to do something different for this project, and because of the company, brand, and fan base he has built over the last two decades or more, he is in a unique position to make it happen, as evidenced by how he and his team have evolved the project as the campaign becomes ever more successful.

Rather than having any sort of stretch goals, they are adding “thank you” features. Since they can scale up the print run of the hardcover books, the profit margin increases. Instead of pocketing that money, they are adding more color to the interior of the books, and they are enhancing the quality of some of the items in the swag boxes. They are even helping to mitigate the substantial overseas shipping costs by paying in advance any customs tax or duties the customer would ordinarily have to pay.

But I don’t really care what it does or doesn’t mean for publishing. I am interested in the story behind the project. What is going on behind the scenes? Sanderson is providing that information — LOTS of it –in updates, an FAQ, previews, and live streams, and I am just gobbling it up.

Epic fantasy isn’t really my thing. In another lifetime, as a bookstore employee, I referred to the work of folks like Terry Goodkind, George RR Martin, Terry Brooks, and Robert Jordan as “doorstop sagas.” I read a Terry Goodkind book which was pleasant enough but about 250 pages too long. Two characters took 30 pages to get out of a city, and nothing much happened to them along the way. There was no danger or hijinks or pursuit. It just took forever. I had a similar reaction to Game of Thrones. (I had LOTS of intense reactions to Game of Thrones, but that’s a subject for another day.)

One of Brandon Sanderson’s early claims to fame was that he was chosen to finish Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. He has gone on to write several series of his own, the most ponderous of which is the Stormlight Archive. The first book, Way of Kings, is 1008 pages long.

Listening to him chatter away during the live streams, I get the impression that these stories come pouring out of him. I am not saying that it is always easy or that he doesn’t invest significant time in effort in writing and revising or that he doesn’t get stuck, but when it’s going well, the story just flows. And I think that this Kickstarter project is a clear example of stories just flowing. I mean, the man wrote four whole “extra” books (five if you count the YA graphic novel which is not part of the Kickstarter) during the pandemic by using the time he saved by not traveling on book tours and to conventions, keeping up with all of his other current writing obligations at the same time. At least two of them are stories he had really wanted to write for a while but could never find the time in his existing writing and travel schedule.

Screen shot of cover art mockup from the Kickstarter page

After I read Scalzi’s piece, I watched the introductory video. Then I went and found the first livestream related to the project. I signed up for the newsletter so that I could get the first chapters of each book. The subsequent livestreams have included input from other members of the team, and they and Sanderson answer questions from the audience. Even without having read any of his previous books or knowing anything about this Cosmere universe he has created, I don’t feel lost. I am discovering a whole new world, and I am loving it.

The thing is that he has been providing this kind of information for a while, unbeknownst to me because I wasn’t paying any attention. I know that he is by no means the only author to provide this kind of content, but he knows his audience really well (and his critics, too, based on some things he has said). His YouTube channel has a wealth of information about his process, writing advice, where to start with his books depending on what kind of a reader you are, and more. It’s impressive.

Has it convinced me to back the Kickstarter? Not yet. But I am definitely enjoying watching the project’s progress.

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