Book 4 Update

I’ve been quiet, but busy the past couple of weeks. Book 4 has been to the editor and returned, and I’ve made changes and corrections based on her suggestions. I’ve formatted the paperback and the ebook version, and I just ordered the cover this afternoon. What does all this mean? It means Book 4, Crooked Halos, will probably come out sometime next month!

In other news, I’ve set up all three of the other books to go wide, which means you can read them in iBooks, Nook, and a half dozen other ways now. I’ve also sent the first half of Book 5 off to my beta reader to find out if it’s horrible drivel or not.

Long story short, there’s lots going on, and I’ll do my best to keep everyone updated.

The July Project

While I’m entering the home stretch with the rewrite of Book 4, I’ve decided I want to spend the month of July doing something a little different. So, every day for the month of July, I’m going to write a song or a poem. I’ll probably share a few of them here as we go along.

Book 4 Status Update

By the end of the day (I’m writing this on Wednesday, May 30), I’m hoping to have about 20,000 words on Book 4 written, almost all of them brand-spankin’ new. There’s at least another five or six thousand to write after that before I can start working old material back into the story, fixing inconsistencies and continuity issues as I go along and making sure it all makes sense in the end.

The choice to ditch the first 20K seemed like madness when I decided to do it a few weeks ago, but in hindsight it’s been the best choice I could have made. That initial sequence–a massive flashback about Hazzard’s first case as a police officer–was draggy and slow and far too police procedurally for my tastes. It felt far too generic and lacked the fun inner monologue that (I like to think, anyway) Hazzard stories have. I’m still going to have that story in the final book, in a way: Hazzard will give a much briefer, more concise version of it as his present self, so we’ll get more of his snark and all that. It’ll be five or six thousand words all-told, not 20,000. That’s opened things up for more action and less sitting around talking about warrants and proper police procedures.

Probably not going to be done by the end of the week, unfortunately. There’s just too much still to write and not enough hours in the day. But maybe by next week? Hope springs eternal.

I should probably get off here and get back to writing the actual book, huh? Yeah, that sounds like a good choice.

TFW You Scrap 33% of Your #WIP

Writers are full of advice for one another. “Write every day,” some of them say. “The first draft is you telling the story to yourself.” “Kill your darlings.”

Kill your darlings.

It’s a simple idea: you can’t be afraid to cut stuff you really like if it doesn’t fit. Even if it’s the best scene you’ve ever written, with dialogue crafted into perfect prose, if it doesn’t fit in the book, you have to cut it.

Now, most authors will keep scraps and bits they’ve cut like this in case they find somewhere to put it later on down the road. Just because this particular scene doesn’t work in this book doesn’t mean it won’t work in another book. Your darling may still see the light of day.

And then there’s what I’m experiencing. I’ve been going through book 4, giving it a once-over before sending it off to my editor at the end of the month. And…

…and dear lord, the first third of the book is just dead boring. It’s flat, lifeless, and doesn’t really do much besides move the proverbial pieces around the board, getting them in place for when things do start to pick up. It bored me when I was reading through it. I hated it. It plodded in the worst possible way.

So I cut it. All 20,000 words of it. A full third of the book, just gone.

Am I insane? Couldn’t I have just worked on it, made what was there more interesting? I mean, I’d already invested all this time and effort and energy into the thing.

But no, you gotta kill your darlings, even if they’re not quite as darling as you’d like. You can’t be afraid to put massive swathes of your book on the chopping block if they just don’t work. And this 20,000 words just did. Not. Work.

I’m going to try to rewrite that chunk of book over the next couple of weeks. I’d still like to hit my (self-imposed) deadline to get the book off to the editor by the beginning of June. I spent a bit of time yesterday plotting out what I’ll do in the rewrite. It has me far more excited than what I had originally.

This book has been the most challenging for me to write. It was the second Hazzard novel I ever wrote, way back in, like, 2013, and it’s now on its third major draft (where I’ve rewritten massive chunks, not just little tweaks here and there). This damn book is my problem child, but it’s gonna get written.

Even if I have to kill half of it in the process.

In Praise of Short Stories

I’ve been stalling out working on novel-length stuff lately, but I have been working on short stories.

I’ve always liked short stories. I enjoy being able to get in, tell a story,  and get out. You don’t have to worry about setting things up for the next book in the series or building a massive, epic narrative. You can tell small, simple stories that are complete in and of themselves.

I often use short stories to experiment with themes, narrative devices, and storytelling styles. The Hazzard Pay novels have a very specific tone and style to them that doesn’t allow for me to try lots of new things from book to book, unfortunately. And while I definitely enjoy writing in Eddie Hazzard’s voice, it’s fun to try out different things sometimes, different tones and genres and narrative conventions. And since they’re experiments, if they fail? No big deal.

Anyway, I’ll probably put up one of the stories I’ve written lately here on the website in the next week or so.

 

Recovering Orphans

I’m sure most authors have lots of bits and pieces of writing, scenes or chunks of dialogue that got cut from a story because they didn’t fit the tone or killed the pace or just weren’t really needed. Orphans, I call them. Pieces of writing that don’t fit into any existing work, or that were cut for whatever (often very valid!) reason. A lot of it is stuff you might actually like, that could be very well-written, but just not what was needed. They say authors need to kill their darlings, a reminder while editing that just because you love some thing you wrote doesn’t mean it belongs in the book you’re writing. But I’m not sure you have to kill them, per se. I think you can save them, tuck them away in a folder somewhere in the off chance that someday, somewhere, you’ll find the spot for that little piece that you wrote. You’ll find it a home, a forever home, and the warm glow in the pit of your stomach will leave you feelin’ fine.

I’ve got a couple of places I store such orphans. There’s a folder in Dropbox that has everything I’ve written related to Eddie Hazzard over the years. There’s lots of Word documents with a paragraph or two jotted down, an exchange between characters or the description of a scene or a crime that I want to keep because I like the idea. I also have a note on my phone of Hazzard lines, usually short bits of dialogue or a quip from Eddie that I particularly like (these often end up getting shared on Twitter for the #1LineWed hashtag game). Many, if not most, of those will end up in a Hazzard story someday. A couple of them I’ve actually written short stories or scenes in a book around already.

Below, I’ve decided to share an orphan that I really like, one that may someday fit into a book or a short story or…something. I hope you like it.

* * *

It takes a lot to get me to blink. I’m not a man prone to backing off from a confrontation, which has brought me sorrow and pain more times than I can count.

But it’s just not in me to back down from a fight. I can’t do it.

Which is how I found myself staring across a room full of people at my nemesis, one Maribelle Vander Grove. Her skirt was pleated and pressed perfectly, her white blouse was unblemished by wrinkle or food stain, not a hair was out of place on her head. Her whole demeanor put my carelessly rumpled self to shame.

“Well?” I asked, not breaking eye contact.

“Jane Seymour,” she responded evenly.

I broke away first and glanced around at the rest of the room. Ten other children, all aged about 12, sat there, staring back at me. “Is that, um, is that right?” I asked.

Joey Standlin, a skinny kid who managed to project an aura of pocket protector-ness even though he was dressed identically to everyone else in the room and wasn’t wearing a pocket protector, cleared his throat hesitantly. “Um, yes, Mr. Hazzard, Maribelle is correct.”

I straightened up from the defensive crouch I’d instinctively taken during my confrontation with the child. “Well, then, a point to Maribelle,” I said.

My name’s Eddie Hazzard, and I’m a private detective currently pretending to be a substitute teacher. My coffee is most definitely spiked.

 

Book 3 Status Update

I was sick over the weekend and the beginning of this week, which means I got a whole lot of nothing written (well, I wrote exactly two things: a one-liner for Miss Typewell that I like, and a couple lines of what will eventually be a song).

But I was busy last week! During my downtime (mostly lunch time), I did a second draft of Book 3 of Eddie Hazzard’s adventures. In the process of polishing things and making sure it all made sense and wasn’t absolute crap (jury is still out on all that; it needs to go to my beta readers next), I added about 2,000 words to its length. My stuff tends to be short; this book currently clocks in at about 55,000 words. Book 2 is a little over 60,000, and Book 1 was around 56,000. But I believe in getting in there, getting the story told, and getting out. I don’t need to describe every single brick of every single building. This ain’t Tolkien. Could I expand things, make the story longer or add in more detail? Sure, I could probably do those things. But I like economic storytelling. I like stories that can be read quickly. So that’s the sort of stories I write.

Sometime in the next few months, it’ll go out to my beta readers for their opinions and perspectives. I trust them; the two ladies who’ve beta read my other books have offered excellent advice and suggestions. Then, I’ll make a few tweaks based on their feedback and find an editor to pick through it. With any luck, I should have the book ready to publish by early next year.

I’ll probably start doing the next draft of Book 4 in the next few weeks. It needs more work than the earlier books did; of everything I’ve written, it’s the one I’m least-confident in (it’s also technically the second full-length novel I wrote; it’s gone through two massive rewrites since the first draft back in, like, 2013). With any luck, that one will be off to the beta readers before the end of the year.

One of the things I’ve noticed about successful self-publishing authors (from this Facebook group I’m in) is that they’re constantly working on multiple projects at once. They’ve always got things in various stages of completion. I need to do that to capitalize on any momentum I might end up generating with one of my books. Sure, the first book hasn’t really sold well (or at all, to be completely honest), but that’s okay. It’s the first one. I have to build the audience and bring in the readers over time. Eventually, they’ll be there. The sales will be there. I’m mostly doing all of this for fun. It’d be nice to recoup expenses (good editing services are not cheap), but I’m mostly doing this because I love telling stories. That’s not going to change anytime soon.

Just Like Starting Over

I’ve been busy in the few days since Royal James disappeared.  I’m just waiting for them to take The Invisible Crown down off Amazon and other sites so I can reupload it myself.  In a bit of a holding pattern on that because, as I just said, I’m waiting on someone else to do a thing.

But! in the meantime, I have not been resting on my laurels.  No, I have been very busy getting things up and running for the next book.  The year with Royal James taught me several things, among them (1) work with people you trust and (2) you get what you pay for.  The last time I was doing the self-publishing thing, I tried to do everything by myself: editing, formatting, cover design and layout, marketing, etc.  And, when I could snatch a free moment from all that, I’d even manage to do some writing now and then.

This time around, I’m taking a different approach.  A book is not all that dissimilar from a child, and both take a village to bring up right.  To that end, I’ve contacted various individuals known to me to help out with editing and cover design.  I haven’t decided whether or not to bring in outside help on formatting; I have the formatted files for the first book, and I think I could just use those as a guide (and create some internal style consistency, which would be nice).  That’s all still a few months down the road, though.  I anticipate being able to get the second book out in September or so, and the third book probably by summer next year.  I want to accelerate the timeline Royal James had been planning (a book a year) to something that puts more books in people’s hands faster (I’m leaning towards a release every nine months or so until I’ve put out all the books I’ve already got written, then we’ll see how long it takes in between new ones after that).

Additionally, I’ve decided to pursue something of a mad idea I came up with back when TIC came out: an audio book.  I know, it seems silly to do an audio book of a novel only a few dozen people have read, but (1) I’m hoping to get more readers in the coming months and (2) it’s my book, shut up.  All that said, I’ve got several friends who’ve stepped up and offered to contribute their vocal talents to the project, and I started working out what characters are in each scene yesterday so I can have an idea how many different people we’ll actually need.

I’m also – and this might be the most relevant thing of all – writing again!  It’s been a few months since I felt like putting words to the page, for whatever reason.  But lately, I’ve started up a couple of new stories, at least one of which will probably turn into a novel (or even a series of novels!).  It’s a good feeling, to have words showing up when I sit down to write.

Anyway, stay tuned!  As soon as I’ve got complete control of the book, I’ll do a giveaway with some fabulous* prizes!

 

* – Quality of prizes may be slightly exaggerated.

Discipline and Inspiration

A lot of my writer friends like to treating writing like any other job: there are deadlines, quotas to meet, specific goals to achieve.  And I get that.  If you just keep endlessly working on the same book forever, you’re never going to get to publish it any move on to something new.  But I also feels like it gives short shrift to the creative aspect of what we’re doing here.

Everyone decries inspiration as a fickle, fleeting muse, as though waiting for it to make an appearance is a form of weakness in a writer and a sign that they’re not a True Author (TM).  As if the only way to really, truly being a professional in the field is to spend each day putting words on the page, some good and some bad, and then going back and editing them to make them all polished gold or something.

That strikes me as a bit disingenuous.  Each of us started writing because we were struck with some bit of inspiration.  Maybe it was just a scene, or a character, or even a word or phrase.  Maybe it was a line of dialogue, or the brief description of an action or something.  We all started from a place of inspiration, not a place of discipline.  And while I think it’s great that some writers can crank out words every day without concern for whether or not they’re good words (or they’re words that can be fixed in editing), I’d still rather take my time, maybe not get something on the page every day, and make sure I put down the right words the first time ’round.

And maybe that’s arrogance on my part.  Maybe I’m not being as clear here as I’d like to be.  Writing about writing is always fraught with hand-wringing and sounding full of yourself.  “The Process,” y’know.  I always roll my eyes when creative folks talk about their Process.  It sounds so pretentious.  And I’m sure talking of inspiration sounds that way, too.  It’s a lot more down-to-earth to talk about being a writer through the self-discipline of writing.  You sound like a human, or like anyone could do what you do if they just built that discipline themselves.

But I’m not sure that’s true.  Maybe it’s a bit elitist, but not everybody can do everything, even with discipline.  I could practice every day, hire the best trainers and go through intense regimens, and still never be a better basketball player than LeBron James or Michael Jordan.  I could push myself to practice for hours a day, doing riffs and runs and arpeggios, and never be as good a guitar player as Prince was.  Those are (or were) all highly-disciplined people who spent years honing their crafts, but they started with the inspiration.  I’m just saying maybe we shouldn’t discount that part quite so much.  Discipline without inspiration is just so much hard work for nothing.