Cup of Dcaf: Finding Your Balance

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Let’s be frank here: every writer is going to have a unique approach to writing a book. I’m not going to sit down and say “you have to do it this way!” For one thing, that would be bad advice. For another, it would be wildly hypocritical. I’ve written three novels, and each was approached in a wildly different manner.

As most writers probably know, there are two general types of writers when it comes to novels. There are “plotters” and there are “pantsers,” or, as George R. R. Martin famously put it, “architects” and “gardeners.” Continue reading

Mini State of Writing: Of Genesis Edition

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Big things have been afoot in the Chronicle of the Sons plan, lately.

As I mentioned in various earlier State of Writing posts, the plan for CotS has been for four books, with Of Genesis coming second and going over the same timeline as All Flames Cast, but from the POVs of some of the antagonists. As I set out to outline this, things started pretty smoothly. I got through an almost complete checkpoint list, and wrote a couple of character sketch scenes to help get a feel for the new POVs.

And that’s where I hit a wall. With one notable exception (we’ll revisit this in a bit), none of the characters excited me. I didn’t want to write them. Their stories didn’t feel right. On top of that, I realized that doing this as a second book would completely derail the narrative momentum built up at the end of AFC. Continue reading

Cup of Dcaf: Music That’s Impacted My Writing

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I know for a fact that I’m far from unique among writers as a big music fan. Almost every writer I know has some sort of writing playlist; many have the same habit I do of making a new playlist to fit the tones of new books or stories.

But just because I’m not unique doesn’t mean that music isn’t worth talking about in the context of writing. It’s indispensable for me. I simply cannot sit down and be productive on a manuscript without music.

On top of that, I get a lot of inspiration just listening to music. Often, it will be the tone of a song that gets me; others, it’s a line that I particularly enjoy or a really cool song title. In this vein, I thought I’d talk about some of the songs and the stories (that you can read right here on Dcafwriting!) that they inspired.

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Cup of Dcaf: On the Subject of Prologues

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I must admit to some discontent with myself even as I write this. I’m a fan of a well-executed prologue, especially in a fantasy novel, and indeed there is a prologue in All Flames Cast (and will be one in Of Genesis). Yet I’m about to argue in opposition of prologues, for some reason.

Actually, for good reason. You see, prologues are generally unnecessary.

Oh, most authors will argue heartily that their prologue absolutely HAS to be in there. “It sets up so much!” they maintain. Or, “There’s tons of background there!” Possibly even, “It’s where the plot gets set up!” Continue reading

Cup of Dcaf: Goals For a New Year

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It’s 2016, apparently. I guess that happened? Weird.

Looking back now, 2015 was easily my most productive year of writing. I posted more on here than I did in the previous three years combined. (Unsurprisingly, 2015 saw more site traffic than the rest of its existence combined—by a lot. Somewhere in the range of 200%.)

More importantly, I made a few big strides toward my ultimate writing goals: I completed the manuscript of All Flames Cast, I sent off my very first query letter to an agency, and I received a request to submit part of the manuscript. You can find a big chunk of preview chapters here.

I’m heavily involved in revisions now, with the outline begun for the next Chronicle of the Sons, titled Of Genesis.

Which brings me to the “looking forward” part of this post. I need to build on 2015. I want to get All Flames Cast published (traditionally). It’s gonna take a lot of work. The current state is somewhere between a first and second draft. There are some seriously rough spots that need to a hefty amount of attention. A couple chapters may need to be rewritten entirely. Continuity issues abound, especially earlier in the book, written before I’d fully laid out the plan for a four-book series. These are all things that need to be done, even (maybe especially) if this agent decides to pick me up.

So that’s priority #1 for the first part of this year. I need to get AFC into a state worthy of review from beta readers and, if not probably but ideally, an editor at a publishing house.

The next step is finishing the outline and filling out character notes for Of Genesis. I’ll be talking about this process and this book more in the coming weeks and months, since it’s not your typical sequel. I’m trying something different, and I’m not certain how well it will work. Fingers are crossed. It might not be realistic, but I’d love to finish the first draft of this by the end of the year.

Another priority is setting aside the time and money to attend at least one writing conference in 2016. I haven’t made this a priority in recent years, and indeed haven’t been to one since AWP in 2010. As I take the next steps in my writing career, I think this is an important thing to get back into.

Lastly is something that, honestly, will take a backseat to Chronicle of the Sons but remains present in my mind: I want to get back into the short fiction game. Last year I wrote one piece of short fiction that I liked a lot, and in fact inspired a new trilogy that I’ll write one day. I wrote two others that didn’t end up so great, set in the same world. You won’t be seeing those on here anytime soon, since I don’t like to post outright bad stories.

What I’m getting at is that I’ve gone from loving the short fiction format and writing seven or eight stories a year in 2011 and 2012 to almost completely abandoning it. I think I need to break out of that, get the creative juices flowing again, and use it to help flesh out some of the worlds my novels take place in. If things go well, I’ll post at least a couple short stories set in the CotS world this year.

Mostly, these all add up to finding a balance in my writing life. I’ve gotten very little concrete production done since finishing AFC last July, and a big part of that is the new job and coaching a hockey team. My schedule changed a lot, but it’s up to me to find the time and build the schedule that allows me to be productive again. I’d love to get back to doing at least 500 words a day.

So, as 2016 gets going, I’ll be a busy guy. What are your writing goals for the year?