Writing My Second Novel, Twistin’ Matilda Pt. 1

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So I was left with the question, should I do this whole thing again?  I mean I was asked to, but should I?

I learned quite a bit writing my first one.  I had made revisions to it and brought my vocabulary back to a much more useful level.  Why not do it again.  The second time should be easier.  Besides that, I had fun right?

So I hunkered down with my ‘bible’ and added all the new stuff from the first book, The Matilda.  I wrote all the points I wanted to hit and I left it loosey goosey.  I wasn’t going to struggle with an outline this time.  I waited until I had everything as ready as I thought it could be.

I grabbed my keyboard, flipped the screen on started to write.  The first few days were a struggle.  By the middle of the second week, I wasn’t sure where the story was going and it was frustrating.  But I knew I could it this time, no matter what.

Then my invisible muse came to me and the rest of the second book wrote itself.  I almost couldn’t keep up with the words as they flowed from my fingers to the screen.  I had my first draft done in about twenty days.

That’s one of hell of an improvement from the first one.  It was crazy.  It was exhilarating.  All in all, it was a blast.

That was the most fun I have ever had writing.  I couldn’t wait to work on a third one now.  Of course, I still had to revise that first draft.

The Story of the Matilda

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So, besides being a science fiction tale, what is The Matilda about?

Well, to put it in a nutshell, the book follows the crew of the Matilda as they fight their way through shadowy government agencies, crime lords, their pasts, and monstrosities from an unknown layer of the universe.

It all takes place in this section of controlled space known as The Consortium.  This section of space is made up of multiple worlds and systems that are interconnected by wormhole gates, which are in turn, controlled by the bureaucracy known as The Consortium.  The systems themselves are left to their own devices but interplanetary trade is controlled by the military.

We follow a group of survivors who live on the fringes of society.  Unfortunately, the fringes are controlled by criminal elements.  Trapped between these two forces, the crew works their way toward another meal, sometimes legally other times not so much.

But someone is after them.  But who are they really after and why?  What could one of the crew know that could be potentially dangerous for the powers that be?

It’s moments like this when it’s good to have an ace up your sleeve.  Even if that ace can bypass the entire wormhole gate system by going where no one should or no one would want to go.

The plan is for everyone to join Jacquotte Delahaye and her crew of misfits in the first book of the series, The Matilda.

And remember how I wondered if I wanted to do this again?  Well, the journey will continue in the follow-up sequel, Twistin’ Matilda!

Time Jumping

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Time jumps are a pain.

It’s amazing how the shifting of one hour can completely screw up just about everything.  There I was moving along pretty well with all of my thoughts in place.  I was hitting all my deadlines, my personal calendar goals and all that fun stuff.

One governmentally required time shift later and I am still a recovering zombie.  I miss three deadlines of my own personal making, fall behind a couple weeks on my editing and end up jumping a story because I can’t remember what I wrote last.

Oy to the vey.

I may have to pull back for a while to get back on track.

Rewriting My First Novel, the Matilda Pt. 2

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You know that feeling you get when you hand over a piece of your art and hope people like it, but you expect them to tell you the exact opposite?  It makes reviews much easier to deal with.  Also knowing what my cup of tea is might not be someone else’s makes listening to what other have to say much easier.

On top of that, since I had a more of a script writing background, I’d done edits on the fly (aka, rewritten dialogue so it wasn’t a tongue twister for the actors or just dropped entire sections of well-crafted dialogue to make everything flow better).  I was willing to make changes or start from scratch if it seemed necessary.

I had chosen people close to me as well others who I knew and respected their reviews.  I also tried to choose people who weren’t necessarily into the genre that this story fits into.  As an added bonus, I also got reviews from people that I didn’t know.

So it was with quite a bit of surprise that I got mostly favorable responses.

I listened to what they each had to tell me and made revisions where I saw fit.  I gave it out to other people and let them have a go at it and I made a few more.  Every single person involved in this step helped me become a better writer.  It made me wonder if I should try this whole thing again.

Funnily enough, the biggest response I got was, “When can I read the next one?”

Rewriting My First Novel, the Matilda Pt. 1

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Aah, the joys of rewriting my story.  Can I count the ways?  Should I count the ways?  Or how many times I had to count the ways?

I actually enjoyed the rewriting / editing phase(s).  This is when I had the chance to make my first novel something worth reading.  My first draft was awful… to me anyway.  I’m sure others would have found it awful too but I’m not a sadist.

So I’ve given the story a read through.  What happens next?

For me, the first round is simply cleaning up the tense, spelling and grammar. I also tried to get rid of duplications (be they words, names and so forth).  The next round was fixing the story so it outshone the plot.  This included moving chapters or paragraphs around in the story or cutting them out entirely.  Finally, the third round was fleshing out the bits that needed it and getting rid of the repeating parts that weren’t necessary.

So the benefits were pretty cool right off the bat.  My story got better as I plowed through it.  Each time was a little (or a lot in some spots) better than the last.  Sometimes I’d read parts out loud to work on the flow as well.

After these three revisions, I was pretty happy with what I had created. In fact, I was so pleased with it, I decided to let other people give it a go over and tell me where I went horribly wrong.

Writing Influences and Other Things

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Who are my writing influences, you ask?  Well, there are quite a few.  I have listed some in previous posts and I hope to find more as my journeys continue.

I have been on a bit of an older genre of authors kick as of late. I just finished all but a couple series of Edgar Rice Burroughs and I am currently going through H.P. Lovecraft’s work.

But if we jump in the way back machine, there’ll be some staples, J.R.R. Tolkien, Michael Moorcock, Robert E. Heinlein, Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey and Frank Herbert.

In the middle, some of my favorites were Daniel Keys Moran, John Steakley, Christopher Hinz, William Gibson, Joan D. Vinge and David Gerrold.

And currently, I have a tendency to read:

Steven Brust (http://dreamcafe.com/)

P.C. Hodgell (https://www.fantasticfiction.com/h/p-c-hodgell/)

Joe Abercrombie (https://www.joeabercrombie.com/)

Jim Butcher (http://www.jim-butcher.com/)

I am also looking forward to read Carrie Vaughn’s (http://www.carrievaughn.com/) Martian’s Abroad.

One of the biggest influences on me writing wise has been and probably always will be is Roger Zelazny (https://www.fantasticfiction.com/z/roger-zelazny/). The flow of his stories always grabbed me and shoved me through the pages.  He covered Sci-Fi and Fantasy. He also blended them together in a way that I haven’t come across anyone else having done.

Another of the biggest influences on me would be C.J. Cherryh (http://www.cherryh.com/WaveWithoutAShore/). The biggest universe I have ever come across in story is her space series. It spanned hundreds of years and multiple planets/systems.  And the stories wouldn’t necessarily connect. I have yet to come across a ‘world’ as large as hers.

So if those weren’t a clue, (or possibly confusing) my first book will be in the Sci-Fi genre. It’s pretty much heaped up with a lot of the things that I like and some of the things that I think are missing from Sci-Fi.

So, yay for influenza! Or influences I mean. Yeah not the other thing…

Writing My First Novel, the Matilda Pt. 3

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One of the big differences I have found between screenplays and novels has to do with building the world itself.  In screenplays, it is generally recommended to leave these sorts of things open, aka not too heavily defined.

The simple reason is due to the collaborative structure of a movie or show.  The screenplay is just one piece of the whole story, almost the outline as it were.  I haven’t written a stage play but I assume that the differences are similar.

A novel is the opposite of this.  More knowledge of the places the character goes to is required.  More detail is needed for the sights, the sounds, smells and so forth that the character experiences.  Even the characters themselves.  I just had an interesting idea, a short story told from the angle of smells only.  Hmm….

Well anyway, back to where I was going.  Before my grand excursion into this project, I had written screenplays and short stories only.  A short story also requires less knowledge, structure and detail.  The most extreme example of this being Flash Fiction (a story told in 100 words or less).

I was used to being sparse with things.  As I mentioned previously, I needed more locations, more people and so forth.  But they all had to fit into the world.

In many cases, characters are easy for this.  You can take a bare bones character and stick them into any world with some variations.  An easy example is Sherlock Holmes of Arthur Conan Doyle http://www.arthurconandoyle.com/.  He was made contemporary by Benedict Cumberbatch but still the same character, or House by Hugh Laurie.

But the world itself was a different matter.  I had a certain ‘world’ that my characters fit in but keeping that ‘world’ consistent was the key.  My friend Darrell Hardy had written heavily about world building in general and I found it incredibly useful (http://www.darrellhardy.com/category/world-building-2/).

This was especially true during my rewriting phases.  And I mean phases.

Writing My First Novel, the Matilda Pt. 2

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So I had the idea, a rough outline, characters and setting.  How could it be difficult, you ask?

The main writing I had done for years was scripts, which are a completely different format.  That was a rough lesson to learn under a deadline.

I had the outline right?  Well the story moved quickly away from where I thought it would go.  I had to look at the outline more as guidelines of what could happen.  It forced me to rethink the entire process.

It was during this period that I was beginning to feel hopeless about how it was going to turn out.  I didn’t actually know where the story was going.  My initial ending was nowhere in sight. I turned to other authors to see how they dealt with this and the message was always the same, “Keep writing.”

So I kept writing.  This is when I figured out I didn’t have enough names in my ‘bible’ both characters and places.  Names are not easy for me to come by.  This made the experience all the more frustrating as the self-appointed deadline loomed larger.

I was running out of time.  What I was writing was not going in the direction that I expected.  Every time I had to create a new character or place, I had to eat up time to come up with a name.  But this is when ‘IT’ happened.

I had always heard that some books write themselves or that characters talk to the authors.  Robert E. Howard (http://www.rehfoundation.org/)  even mentions something like this in regards to Conan.  As I am pounding away at my first book, I didn’t expect to feel something like this.

But I was wrong.  A minor character appeared and offered a name.  This character, which didn’t exist in the ‘bible’, reappeared and gave me the character’s motivations.  This character kept coming back and offering pointers and directions to go in.

This interaction made the writing process fun.  It made it more of an adventure for me as the writer.  It gave me the motivation to keep plugging away at it for the next five months and actually get it done.

I owe it all to a fictional character.

Motivations on Time in Writing

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As I mentioned in a previous post, a friend of mine had successfully completed writing a novel in 30 days multiple times.  But she had chosen not to publish.

This made me wonder, were there examples of a published author who could write a book in 30 days?

My wife bought me the definitive James Bond blu-ray collection (at the time).  It had hours of extras including interviews with Ian Fleming (http://www.ianfleming.com/). In one of these interviews he had mentioned that he wrote his first book in a thirty day period in Jamaica.  This was the case for each and every novel he wrote.

Well!  Now I had two examples to motivate me that it could be done and be done successfully.

Forward Ho!

Writing My First Novel, the Matilda Pt.1

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Working on my first novel proved to be much more difficult than I had expected.  At the same time it has been an incredibly rewarding experience.  It took me roughly six months to complete the first draft.  Each step was in many ways more difficult than the previous one.

So why did I decide to write it?  As I mentioned previously, I had always wanted to write one.  A friend of mine had been doing the famous http://nanowrimo.org/ so the opportunity was there.

Truth be told, what did I have to lose except for time over a 30 day period?  Of course, it took quite a bit longer than that but I didn’t know that at the time.

If it was terrible, would it all be worth it?  I believed that it would be no matter how awful it might be.  I could finally say that I had completed a goal that’s been following me along for years.  A life accomplishment is a pretty big deal.  Besides, I wouldn’t have to share it with anyone if it was inherently unreadable.

But what would I write about?  Here in lay a bit of the rub.  I had a bunch of ideas that had been fomenting their way through my skull for years.  You might even see pieces of them in the short fiction section.  But there was one idea I had that had been festering away as an idea for a science fiction TV show.  I had already created most of the show’s bible (main characters, setting, ship design, et al.)  This seemed the best place to start.

The future was bright!