Out of Print

I recently went digging to try and find a book I could only vaguely remember from my younger days. I was a teenager and the book was actually in the teens section of the library instead of the adult Sci Fi/Fantasy sections I’d come to frequent back then. I was only just delving into the teens section after reading every Star Wars novel they had and was disappointed by the YA selection of related materials, but I found another book to tide me over at the time.

It was the second book in the series, I remember. Six books total. There were these boys who had crashed on a deserted island, their plane totaled and they soon found they weren’t alone. There was a mad science lab there and strange creatures1 and the boys splitting up was always a bad idea. One of them went rouge, I think. I can’t quite remember all the details. The cover might have been kind of yellow.

I do remember a scene in which a character rather graphically tries to treat an arrow wound to another character. Something about pushing it in and cutting off the shaft of it that I remember more as the feeling I got from reading it than what actually happened.2

I think I’ve finally found that old series. My library only had three or four of the books. They were missing volumes 1, 3 and possibly 4, so imagine how excited I was to finally get a lead on this series that I could remember no specific details from after so many years!3 It’s a series called Escape from Lost Island by Clay Coleman. And now that I’m an adult with my own money to spend, I can finally get the books and read the whole damn thing after all these years!

One problem. It appears to be out of print.

I have tried Amazon and it returned several results that look like they probably are not in actual possession of the book. There appears to be no one who has turned the series into a digital copy so that I can legally download it from anywhere. The internet has not given me a lead yet as to where I can find these books.4

Even now as I make plans to start hunting through used book stores to try and track the books down, I can’t help thinking that this is a problem that’s been mostly eliminated in modern publishing. Almost every book that comes out these days are immediately digitized and put on the ebook stores. There’s print on demand options for books if you can get your print rights back after the publisher decides not to print your book anymore.5 Out of print is becoming a thing that doesn’t exist anymore.

Until this, I’d forgotten how difficult it is to find a book that’s out of print. It’s just something that I forgot could even happen. I am having trouble even tracking down the author on social media. Maybe he’s the same guy that wrote the book on diving, but I really don’t know.

I, for one, am really glad that this isn’t going to be a problem going forward. I like being able to dig up books from my past and rereading them to see if they are like I remember them. In the mean time, though, I am looking up every used book store in the lower mainland and going to try and find these books now that I remember what they are.6

  1. Might have been zombies. Might have been mutants. I can’t quite remember []
  2. I suspect this was what led me to enjoy some of the gorier scenes in novels in the future and why they occasionally come up in my own. []
  3. Seriously, every “Boys plane crash on deserted island novel” search turns up Lord of the Flies []
  4. Not even the… less than legal options are of any help on this one []
  5. And, if all else fails, the pirates will probably have it stashed away somewhere []
  6. At least I think I do. I’m going to be so sad if I track them down and I’m wrong. []

But Which Darlings? – World Building Edition

By this point, I think everyone’s familiar with the Quiller-Couch1 advice of “Kill your darlings.” It doesn’t matter how much you love that passage or that word, you need to get rid of it to make your story better. Unless you have a good reason to keep something, you should probably cut it.

I went through a very extensive high fantasy phase in my reading in high school,2 followed by a space-related science fiction one. If there’s one area where people like to throw this advice right out the window, it’s with world building in these two genres. In order to get their point across, these authors often feel the need to explain everything about their universe so that the reader can understand.

Now, there should be a lot more world building in these sorts of stories. You have to. There’s a whole world you’re plunging the reader into that they are going to need to understand in order to follow along with the story. There’s a lot they need to know, and there’s a lot you need to get across. I’m just suggesting that maybe it’s not all relevant information.

For example, I distinctly remember a fantasy story that explained that they had a system to empty chamber pots so that they weren’t dumped out the window and into the streets. At no point in the story did a character ever use a chamber pot. I don’t think they even had to urinate once in the entire narrative. They didn’t even spend much time in towns or cities where this would be relevant information and, say, they would want to stay in the middle of the road to avoid unfortunate accidents.

Universe elements are like everything else in the story. Feel free to include them all you want in the first draft, but when you’re editing, really think about whether or not that information is actually doing anything for the story. I know how tempting it is to include every single thing about the universe and how it all feels important so that the readers know exactly what they’re dealing with in terms of the universe, but it’s probably not all necessary.

When you’re looking over those parts of your story, keep the same thing in mind as you have with the rest of the story:3 Is this actually important to the narrative? Does it further the plot? Does it add to the characters? Does it help the ambiance? Does this element ever come back into play again later?4 If it doesn’t, make it do one of those things somehow. If not, consider cutting it to help keep the story moving at a good pace.

I know I’ve had to do a lot of it with After Destiny. I’ll tell you about some of the world building-related cuts from that later.

  1. Or Faulkner. Or Wilde. Or any number of other people this quote is attributed to. I really don’t know anymore. []
  2. And Game of Thrones recently []
  3. Or the thing I always think of when I’m rewriting/editing. []
  4. Yes, red herrings are a thing, but I don’t tend to use them as often as I should. []

I Tried Ingress

There’s a game on the Play Store called Ingress. It’s an augmented reality game that allows you to pick a faction and play a very large game of Capture All The Flags. There are portals all over the place and it’s your job to help your team control all of them. The more in your team’s colours, the more territory they control and the better.

It’s interesting in how it does require you to actually physically move to locations in order to perform actions. You are supposed to go and capture portals at physical locations that are set around some kind of landmark1 and once you’re there, you can actually act upon it.2 I can see it as a neat way to explore a new city.

I wish they’d done more with the narrative, though. There’s an intro telling you that the two factions are trying to control the portals because of Exotic Matter and Shapers and you can either be Enlightened or Resistance3. Green or blue. They really didn’t do much with the narrative from what I could tell, given that after that intro I had one other media file after a week of playing and that was it to enforce the story. Everything else was all about the game play,4 which left me a little disappointed because that felt like a lot of wasted potential.

But that wasn’t my ultimate issue with Ingress.

The real problem I had with it5 is that it completely drains my battery. It is, by far, the heaviest app I have ever had on my phone. With it requiring that your screen be on the whole time and it using data to constantly update your location, it just sucked the life out of my phone. I played mostly on my way to work in the morning and in the hour it took from stepping out the front door to sitting down at my desk in the office, I went from 100% to 18%. That was an hour.

It’s okay as a game. I probably would have continued it casually if it wasn’t such a drain, but when I’m out and in places where I would play it,6 I usually need my phone as, well, a phone. I can’t have it die on me because just one app.

  1. No matter how minor the landmark []
  2. My phone kept jumping me to random spots so I didn’t actually have to go to a lot of them to do anything []
  3. I was Enlightened []
  4. Why not make the fact that you’re on a phone part of the game play? Introduce the paranoia element of the enemy being everywhere and set it in the real world to make the experience more immersive? []
  5. And why I’ve uninstalled it []
  6. Waiting for something, killing time until the next thing I have to do, generally on transit []

Serials and Novels and Comics

I recently released a very short book. Cloned Evil: Origins is a strange little thing, I’ll be honest. It was meant to be a serial at first, very heavily inspired by comic books. I had a character whose backstory I intended to release one piece at a time, chapter by chapter, until it eventually met up with wherever the end of the story ended up being.

At first, I thought of serialization in the same way as a lot of other people. You just release a book one chapter at a time and that’s what a serial is. that was certainly how Jukepop Serials marketed it. That was how I learned about them at school, what with being told that Charles Dickens was initially a serial author and that’s how he wrote all of his books.

When I started really reading these whole novels week by week, though, I noticed there was a distinct difference in structure. Serials are a lot punchier and immediate than novels. The chapters read a little different and don’t seem to rely quite as much on what happened previously. Where novels lay in a lot of foreshadowing early and expect you to remember it later when it’s paid off later, a lot of the old serials don’t do that. They were released weekly over a year or two and expecting people to remember what happened months ago was a lot to ask for.

The closer parallel is actually comics. Comics exist largely in six part arcs, released once a month and the arcs are mostly contained. The background information you need is usually repeated as it’s needed and may of the long running series don’t actually require you read the entire thing in order to jump into it.

Cloned Evil is a series that is a lot closer to that idea. Not just because it’s about super villains and cloning and all super powers, but because it’s structured more like a comic or one of the old serials as well. The chapters are short and get to the point. Each installment of the series will have a primer in the front to remind the audience of the key points from previous ones.1

There’s a difference between a novel being released slowly and something that’s intended to be read a piece at a time. It’s a fun experiment to play with and the first book of series was a lot of fun to write. As soon as I’m able, I’ll be getting around to the second. But first, I have some editing to finish.

  1. Or just to catch anyone who’s picking it up from the middle. []

Notebook Tango

So I am a bit of a notebook hoarder. When I go to the bookstore, I always head to the notebooks section and I drool over the books for a good, long while. And then I try my hardest to come up with a reason to get a new one.1 And, of course, this means that I have a bunch of them on my shelf and it was a bit of a mess.

It was time to clean them up, so I finally went through them all and got them together. First was getting them off the damn shelf to see just how many there were and… well, I wasn’t really expecting that I had THAT many.

I needed a system. I always need a system. I hadn’t even looked at half of these since I started actually getting things together and started working on finishing stories. So, naturally, I spent a long time trying to figure out what all the stories in them were2 before splitting them into categories.

Stuff I’m currently working on:

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Stuff I want to work on next:

IMG_20150522_190644

Notebooks for stories that I already had notebooks for:

IMG_20150522_191239

Blank notebooks I haven’t used yet:

IMG_20150522_191141

Not actually for projects:

IMG_20150522_190953

Abandoned stories:

IMG_20150522_190727

And then throw them all onto the shelf roughly in size order. Because I have no idea what priority any of these go in or when I’ll actually get around to any of them. And by throw, I mean shove them in and pack them so tightly that I can barely pull one out anymore.

And that is the grand tour of my notebooks shelf. Now that I can’t get distracted by that mess anymore, I’m getting back to work.3

  1. I’m only allowed to get a new one if I have a project specifically for that book. Otherwise, no go. []
  2. Adding notes to the stories as I went because I am totally focused on organization []
  3. Or watching Eurovision clips on Youtube. One or the other. []

First Draft vs Second Draft

There is a world of difference between the first and second draft in terms of the writing process. At least, there is for me.

A first draft is always so new. There’s excitement in it, as well as a sense of discovery as I’m going into the story for the first time. I’m meeting the characters and deciding what’s going to happen to them. I’m exploring the universe and figuring out what the rules of it are.  I’m pretty much free to do whatever stupid stuff I want for the first draft because, well, why not? No one has to see it and I can skip large chunks of scenes if I don’t feel like dealing with them right now.

It’s about creation at this point, but by the end I have a much better idea of the story than  did at the start. I know what the rules are and how the events should be playing out with these characters. What was once an idea turns into something a lot more concrete by the time the last words hit the page.

The second draft is an entirely different beast together. When I get to the second draft, it’s much less about creation and discovery and more about consistency. The second draft isn’t about writing and enjoying the process, but about making the story actually work. It’s a process of making sure everything actually makes sense and making the ending actually match the beginning in a lot of ways.

It’s also the time when I start trying to make the story good, which is exhausting. Between making the plot consistent throughout, leaving in the foreshadowing where it needs to be, trying to make certain elements subtle while other ones hit you hard enough to break something, and trying not to screw up the grammar, I end up cursing my slightly younger self for skipping over the important stuff and spending so much time on things that have to be cut. Sometimes it involves scrapping a whole chapter or two entirely and writing around it.

Where the first draft is a lot of fun, the second draft is where the work begins and the draft doesn’t end until I’m ready to send it to my editor. Because I don’t do it linearly,1 every rewrite between the first draft and going to my editor counts as my second draft. It is one of the longest stages of the writing process for me.

It’s also one of the best parts. For all the work that goes into it, it’s also when everything finally starts to come together. The story makes sense. The characters make sense. The universe makes sense. It’s exhausting and wonderful.

  1. I usually take it scene by random scene based on my notes, then do a final pass near the end to make sure it works all together []

Rewriting Very Old Stories

I mentioned last time that I just finished rewriting After Destiny. It was originally written during Nanowrimo in 20081 and I thought it would be easy. I’d already written it once. I knew the story pretty well. Sure, I couldn’t use any of the prose, but I knew the story. Sure, I needed to rewrite it, but it would be easy. Sure, it would be a lot of work, but I could do it.

I won’t be doing that again any time soon.

While I’m happy I did it and I am looking forward to editing until it’s solid, I don’t think I’m going to have the energy to do it again for a very long time. It was much more exhausting than I ever thought it would be, though I suspect that’s partially because I really did have to redo the whole thing from scratch and I tried to make it good while I was writing.2

There’s something weird about going back to these old works and trying to remember what you were thinking when you did some of the things that you did in the story. There’s a desire that makes me want to keep everything true to what was originally there. It doesn’t make any sense in the new context, but there’s still a desire to preserve the original.

Steve is now Kitty. Clyde is no longer trying to make a movie that is never brought up after the first couple chapters. Smartphones and smartwatches and tablets exist now. Iris exists now. It is a very different world than the one I made 8 years ago.

Prying myself away from the original draft to make this more modern derivative of it was probably the hardest part3 and I won’t be trying to do it with such old works again. Going through the old book while rewriting the new one, I realized what a different person I was back then and how little of the story I could really save.

I wanted to save more of it, but I really couldn’t.

Needless to say, this version of the story is much better. It’s still very different from anything else I’ve written, but I like it a lot more. I look forward to editing it and reading the completed version in full. And sometime in July,4 you’ll get to see it too.

  1. I think []
  2. I’ll discuss why this is awful another day. Always another day. []
  3. Besides trying to make it good. I kept thinking of it as a second draft and that was a horrible way to do a rewrite. []
  4. With any luck []

State of the Things

I have been busy this last little while and just wanted to take a moment to go through everything happening on the general writing/publishing/getting stuff generally together front. I almost feel like this should become a regular thing with everything that is generally happening.

After Destiny

IT IS REWRITTEN.It’s honestly been more of a slog to get through than I thought it would be and I anticipate a very painful editing process ahead, but the rewrite is done. It was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be, but I forgot how much stuff I needed to change. There really was absolutely nothing worth keeping in the old draft and it was essentially writing it from scratch again.

Add in getting a stupid amount of sick part way through to grind progress down to a halt and, well, the process is just that much more difficult. I deserve a vacation for getting through it all.1

I have learned one very important thing so far from working on this one. I am never going back to a project this old again. I was planning to. I have a lot of old novels that I wanted to revisit and rework, but after this one, I’m thinking I am probably going to pass. I have more recent projects, not to mention sequels,2 that I’d rather get to than do this again.

Looking Glass Saga

Jabberwocky’s Book is out! It’s the second in the Looking Glass Saga, following Return to Wonderland and I’ve actually had it done for a bit. I don’t really know why I held onto it for so long, but it’s out now. For anyone who wanted to know what happened to Alice after the last book, do check it out!

Cloned Evil

I’ve moved off of Jukepop Serials and I’m updating now on Wattpad, since I’ve been getting much better feedback on that site. I’ve been trying to update once every two weeks so far, which seems to be working.

I’m also getting ready to write the next arc just as soon as I finish with After Destiny. It’s been far too long since I’ve written for that series.

White Noise

I still have White Noise up for free on Story Cartel for a couple more days, so please do check it out.

I’ve also worked out a couple pages worth of notes for a sequel, including getting into more back story for a lot of the characters that were grazed over in the previous books. It’s also looking like getting the whole story finished in one book is going to be tricky, so it might end up being a trilogy when it’s all done.

It was only supposed to be a one shot. Really it was. I don’t know how this happened.

Jellyfish

I’m calling it that for now, anyway. I put making the framework for the interactive narrative stuff off to the side for a while, both because I was sick and because I really wanted to finish After Destiny. Now that it’s all been settled, I’ll work out which framework I’m going to use for it and get to work on building it.

And now…

I really need to sit down and plan a few things. With all this stuff happening, it feels like I’m missing a couple things in the mess of it all. While I know I’m going to be editing After Destiny as my next thing, I think I need to work out all the stuff that comes after it. Anyone know a good project planning app for Android? I could probably use it right about now.

  1. I’m probably going to loop back around to loving it once I don’t have to work on it anymore. Just you wait. []
  2. But not a sequel for this one. It should stay a one shot. I hope. []

Author Goals

So I currently have White Noise up for free on a site called Story Cartel, which I’m doing so I can hopefully get a few reviews on it, and I was asked why I didn’t have an agent for it. I told him the answer was a little longer than 140 characters, but it’s a question I think I will be asked again, so let’s actually go through this.

A lot of it derives from the fact that I am writing books in my off hours. I work full time as a developer and I write because I enjoy it. I’m not ready to be held to someone else’s timelines in my off hours and, if I’m having a bad day, I want to be able to take the day off without the added stress of knowing that I have a rewrite or an edit to get in. I already plan on getting two books done per year,1 but I want to know that if my day job gets to be too much, I can drop everything for that without worrying that my agent is going to get in trouble because I’m not getting my stuff done on time.

I have no drive to make anything with marketability in mind. I aim to write the story first, and then figure out who would like it after. I’ve already talked about doing some hypertext fiction or interconnected short stories, as well as doing some stuff that’s just not linear. At all. My romances don’t usually show up until the second drafts based on character chemistry,2 and sometimes there’s no romance at all, which means I don’t follow the rules for young adult fiction or certain genre fiction. Not that I always write young adult. Sometimes the stories are suited for older or younger audiences and I don’t really want to change the stories to suit one particular audience if the story doesn’t call for it.

I also want to actually learn about the publishing process from a publisher’s perspective. Since I’ve started, I’ve gotten a crash course in book formatting and marketing3 as well as learning how to find people to work with and how to work with them. I’ve been really enjoying that, as well as learning the ins and outs of trying to figure out how to set it up as a business.

And, as a bonus, I don’t have to have the girl covers on my books if I don’t want to.

I may change all this in the future and eventually go for the traditional publishing deal,4 but for the moment I’m enjoying doing it all at my own pace and learning about the process. If you’re an agent that really wants to change my mind, though, feel free to get in touch.

  1. A Looking Glass Saga book and one other one []
  2. I also don’t always write straight people, but I do sometimes if the chemistry is there for the characters []
  3. Which I’m pretty damn bad at, I have to admit []
  4. Or maybe do the hybrid thing and only have an agent for some of my work []