Wednesday, October 23, 2013

FINISHED! (the rough draft)

I officially released Eternal Knight on May 1st of 2011. Wow! It was great! What a wonderful feeling to send a book off into the world.

Of course I dreamed of a best seller, book deals, movie deals, the whole nine yards. Hey, I write fantasy, can you blame me? I have an imagination.

The rational part of my brain (there is one) told me that those things were not going to happen. And the rational part was right.

But many wonderful things did happen. Readers liked Eternal Knight. Not just friends and family, but strangers. It is an incredible moment when a complete stranger says that they liked something you created. It is even more amazing when they ask for more.

And this is where I made a mistake. I worked at promoting Eternal Knight instead of working on the second book. Why?

Part of me was looking for motivation in big sales numbers. I thought the demand for a sequel would drive me to the computer. I'll be completely honest... if Eternal Knight had flopped I probably would have stopped writing. I had invested so much time into Eternal Knight I could not imagine another such effort.

The sales didn't come. But good reviews did. And several of the early reviews were from book bloggers - people who read and critique a lot of books. And these were book bloggers who weren't afraid to give out bad reviews.

And then friends, family, and fans started asking when the next book was coming out. And my response was, "I'm working on it." When I really wasn't.

Unless you count thinking about the book as working on the book. And I was thinking about it. Because even though Eternal Knight works as a stand-alone book, it was never intended that way. There was more story to tell.

It wasn't until March 26th, 2012 (an eleven month break) that I got back to writing again. And since I work best with goals, I decided to set a goal of 1,000 words a day. It turned out to be overly ambitious, but I thought I would give it a go. I also decided to track my progress on a spreadsheet. Here are the results plotted on a graph:

The horizontal axis is the date. The vertical axis is the estimated number of days remaining to complete the novel. I used the formula (word count goal - current word count) / (average word count) to come up with the estimated days until completion. My original goal was for a 100,000 word novel. Let's say I was 50,000 words into my word count, and averaging 250 words per day. It would look like this (100,000 - 50,000) / 250 = 200 days until completion.

My original plan was to write 1,000 words per day and to finish a 100,000 word book in 100 days. It didn't quite work out that way. It took 578 days to write Child of the Knight!

Most of the writing was done in three bursts.

Phase One: March 26th - June 4th, 2012.  52,000 words. Why did I stop? Summer started. You would think summer would be a perfect time for a teacher to write. Maybe, but not for me. My wife works and during the summer I am home with Amelia. And summer is filled with evening swim meets, vacation time, and late evenings with the family. I work best on a steady schedule. Summer broke me from my schedule.

See that long rise on the graph? That is my average word count dying. I was averaging 758 words per day before that climb. 246 days later my average word count was a dismal 174. Given that pace the book would take an additional 410 days to finish.

Phase Two: February 6th - June 14th, 2013. 58, 000 words. February and March were huge, with constant writing and great progress. Average word count climbed and days until completion plummeted. April, May, and June were more sporadic, but progress was still made. And then summer hit again.

Phase Three: September 5th - October 22nd, 2013. 13,000 words. A new school year and a fresh start. I knew I was close and was driven to get the job done. Final word count: 123, 435. Average words per day, only 220. I can do better.

Eternal Knight took twenty-three years to write.
Child of the Knight took a year and a half.
Book Three will take even less. I know it will because I know what it takes now. Ideas are not the problem. Story is not the problem. Devotion, focus, drive... there is the problem. And those are problems I can beat.

What is next for Child of the Knight?

1) My revisions. I need to re-read the manuscript, proofread, make changes, and generally clean things up.
2) Give the manuscript to my (3) critique partners for comments and criticism. Make changes based on their evaluation.
3) Give the book (now I'll call it a book) to my (3) first round editors. Listen to their input and make corrections.
4) Give the book to my (3) proofreaders and hope they don't find too many issues.
5) Give the book to my (1) copy-editor. Please, please be a clean manuscript at this point!
6) Typeset and publish.

How long? I cannot imagine it taking less than three months. How long could it take? Five? And while much of the process is going on, I will get to work on book three.

In any case, writing the last word of my rough draft was a wonderful feeling. Can't wait to dig in and start my revisions!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Does EK read like a movie?

Eternal Knight received this review on Amazon the other day. I don't normally share reviews, but I thought this one was kind of cool. The reader seemed to really "get" Eternal Knight. And by "getting" it, I'm not talking about the story, I'm talking about the style. When the reviewer said EK "reads like you can already picture it in your mind" or that it "reads like a fantasy movie" that is exactly how I felt when I was writing it.

Not delving too deeply into details isn't entirely intentional. I tend to focus on story and try just to give enough detail for the reader to create an image in their head. Sometimes I don't put enough brush strokes in. I find adding the little details that flesh out a scene to be one of the most difficult parts of writing. That's where great critique partners like Kemp Brinson, Ann Emery, and Mike Shultz come in. They are great at finding just the right details to make a scene come to life. I couldn't write without them.

The review (from an Amazon reader):

"One of the things I enjoyed most about Eternal Knight is that it didn't overwhelm me with details that keep me from reading a lot of other fantasy novels. Overly detailed descriptions of the character's clothes or actions, or setting the scene, etc... this book has none of that. The story reads like you can already picture it in your mind. It reads like a fantasy movie instead of a fantasy novel, if that makes any sense.

It's also not "magic heavy." Even the few characters that have access to magic have very believable limits. There's no, "Well, I dropped my sword, so I'm going to wave my arms... and drop this mountain on you." There's no "easy fix" by magic in this book. Both the internal and external struggles are realistic.

Looking forward to the sequel!"

By the way, I am currently writing the epilogue to Child of the Knight. Not too long and I'll turn it over to Kemp, Ann, and Mike.