Monthly Archives: March 2017


A few years back, I plunked down a goodly amount of money for an online course on how to revise your novel. It’s by Holly Lisle (someone I never heard of, and someone whose books I’ve never read). It was a fun course, though I never finished it, I found out a few things about how to improve my manuscript and between her and Rayne Hall, I’ve found ways to try an keep my writing clean.

Anyway, I pulled out War Mage and read through it and found out what a wreck it is. Between cutting and pasting, leaving some first-draft stuff, adding seventh (Yes, seventh) draft stuff on top of it, this story, as written, is not what I planned. Even though I knew in my head what I wanted, it didn’t translate on the page because I kept saying to myself, “I’ll go into that in more detail in the next book.” Well, no…I should go into more detail in this book.

One of the things Holly points out is that when you revise, you should start at the 30,000 foot level and then line edit at the very end. Start with the story, the structure, the scenes, then the words. She gives you worksheets to fill out, which might sound stupid, but actually distills your story to a workable form. Right now I’m working through characters, and finding out that my main character carries less weight than most of the secondary and even some tertiary characters.  I describe people in detail that should just be “Sergeant So-and-so”.

I would suggest this course to anyone who’s looking at their manuscript and saying, “Where do I start?” Yes, it’s pricy, and 22 weeks might seem long, but you have access to it for a lifetime. I have given myself until June 1 to get this revision done. Also, in June should be the release of Grimaulkin.


Writing Environment

Grim is at the editor’s. A few common errors were found in the sample that was sent to me, things that are common for pantsers, like description before the subject instead of after, and use of flat words instead of more specific words. Also the word “that”. I’m going to run a spell check through it and pull out as many “that”‘s as I can.

There’s going to be an author Meet & Greet at the Warwick Public Library April 22, and Grim won’t be ready by then. We hope to have it ready by June. I’ll launch it, do meet & greets, and book signings then, throughout the summer. Definitely not doing Comicon. The Association of RI Authors has a small clique of sci-fi (speculative fiction) authors that get together and do stuff. Because I am both old and anxious, I haven’t found a way to get into that clique. Besides, I have only one book. Maybe once I get a few books under my belt, I’ll get a little less anxious.

Grim 2 is up to 20K and I’ve already completed the main plot. Or have I? I suppose there’s room to maneuver something else in the main plot. Or change the main plot. Or I could do what I did with Grim, and introduce a whole new plot right in the middle. I feel like I’m dragging shit, putting stuff in there for the sake of putting stuff in there. Maybe when I’m done, I’ll be over 70K and have the luxury of pulling stuff out.

I’d probably be over 20K if I didn’t have to worry about my writing environment or timing. I used to write at work during lunch hour, but it always seemed like a warm-up, not actual “good stuff”. I write Champions stories during lunch, when my characters need to do something off camera.

I also have a writing computer where I’m writing this blog. It’s my iMac Mini named Hemingway, located feet away from the only TV in the house.. So what ends up happening a lot is that my son wants to watch TV at the same time I want to write. I can’t write 1) with a TV on in the background, 2) someone else in the room, 3) if it’s too darn cold. so I go elsewhere and let my muse stew. In the evening, by the time he’s done with TV, I’m involved in something else so I don’t write.

I sometimes write between 5-6, but once I get on my office/gaming computer, I’m doing gaming and not writing. Six to seven or eight is when I listen to the news via Sirius XM; 8-9 is when I game. I’m sometimes in bed by 8 or 9. If I wake up before the alarm, I will sometimes do some writing, but I mostly go into work early so I can leave early. That’s my weekdays. Weekends, I like to do my writing in the morning. After 4 hours or so, I peter out and can’t do anymore. Sometimes I’ll take a chores/gaming break, and then go back to writing at night.

Editing is different. Editing, I take as much time as I can and do that, because there’s a time constraint on that. I like to give myself two weeks to turn edits around, three if they’re really bad (i.e. War Mage). I’m thinking of pulling out my old “How to Revise” course that I paid $300 for back in the day and tackle War Mage with that. Of course, I have to find it…

What is a novel?

So! Grimaulkin 2 is going along smashingly. 15K words so far with an average of 1000 words a day, except weekends which I can top 2K words a day.

I got my first one-star review from Homecoming. Basically, he said I had no plot. At first, I laughed it off. “You just don’t understand.” Then I thought about it, and I thought about the editing of War Mage, when the editor said, “All they’re doing is running around saying, ‘There’s dragons!'” I was so into being authentic that I didn’t develop a typical plot.

Now, I usually write toward a theme. Homecoming was “Home is where the heart is.” War Mage is “Friends are in surprising places.” Grimaulkin, I notice, doesn’t have a theme that I wrote toward, but it does have a plot (two of them, in fact). The stories in Water don’t have much of a theme or plot, because, well, it’s all sex.

Anyway, back to the one-star review and how I now think about War Mage. War Mage has no typical plot. Meaning protagonist vs. antagonist. Well, it does, but there’s garbage in between. The “oh look, there’s dragons” scenes. I could tell War Mage in a short story if I wanted to. But what is a novel if not a main plot with side plots along the way? Unless I’m looking at the construction wrong.

I’ve noticed, after reading some craft books, that novels are “protagonist in constant struggle.” Take a protagonist, throw in assorted things to block him, ratchet up the conflict as you go along, and have him succeed or fail. Thank you, Joseph Campbell.

So now, this is expected. Is this what makes a best selling story? Or is it something original? I will admit, I haven’t read a lot of fiction over the past couple of years, concentrating mostly on craft books because they’re easier to read/listen to in chunks. Fiction I have to keep the story in mind, and when I’m writing a story, I don’t want to have another story in my head to distract me. Maybe I should pick up a few short stories to get the idea of what people are looking for, and deconstruct those. Or break down a novel or two that I’ve already read.

I’m thinking Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series, which is what I’m basing Grim a lot on. To me, there’s a main plot with side plots. Repairman Jack has a main plot that goes through the entire novel with one or two side plots that continue through the books. One book I read two years ago had one plot throughout the entire thing, with assorted conflicts for the protagonist–the typical story that the craft books tell me to write. Until the author killed off a main character, I thought the story was boring. Then I threw it across the room in disgust, knowing that was just a ploy to make things exciting. Another story I read last year had a deus ex machina that pissed me the hell off. The last book I’m reading, which is gay erotic romance, has stalled out in the middle and I’ve put it aside not caring what happens to the main protagonist going home to his family (I expect that he’ll suddenly get a spine; I can see that coming a mile away).

What I’m going to do is let the editor take a look at War Mage. If it doesn’t have a plot, then I’ll think about what plot to put in and weave it through the story, with the authentic scenes in the middle. Grimaulkin, I feel confident in. Water, is, well, meh (except Scorpio–I’m proud of that one).  I need to drag Grimaulkin 2’s plot a little longer than it is. I have a two-week time period to play with, and a lot can happen then.

Decisions, decisions

So, at present, Water and Grimaulkin are at the editor’s. Grimaulkin Tempted is up to 10K words already and I’m in need of another subplot. So far I have:

Main plot: Scott’s ex comes back.
Subplot A: Becky, his cousin, is being followed by a mysterious person.
Subplot B: Mike is being used as the downstairs mover.

I need a magical subplot C, something to get the Rosicrucians involved again. Or a subplot D, another Satanic murder (though that’s going to be be in the third book, I think). Another minor demon involved? Not sure. Also maybe something involving Rufus, the dog.

Earth is going to be the next erotica series, I think. I need to do more research on the Earth signs to find out good places to put them, and what powers they control.

Also, I was reminded of War Mage. In my excitement over Grim, I’ve let that go to the wayside. I didn’t care much for some of the editing, and so I put it aside. I tried to rewrite it from the beginning based on my beta reader’s suggestions, but it just didn’t want to work. Jake Logan is a gay writer. L.A. Jacob can write both gay and straight, but the military has to come from Jake. L.A. Jacob reins in the sex part, which is why the sex is alluded to in War Mage, not explicit. The Dark Prison, the third book, has no sex (yet). War Mage has to be complete by July for a September release.

Man, I have so many irons in the fire. And I’m going to buy a microphone to start doing podcasts! Maybe. But I am buying a mike. The podcast will be about writing and magic. I will probably have it “sponsored” by Paper Angel Press and Zarra Knightley Publishing. In other words, I’ll shill their books. Not sure about author interviews yet. I’m not one of the best interviewers –it’s been a very long time since I’ve done interviews. There’s one podcast I listen to where the guy asks the same questions of every guest, and I don’t want to do that. You can tell he doesn’t do much research on the guests he has.

So that seems like enough for this week.