Quick note on employment…
It has been FAR too long since I posted on this blog! Granted, my contract ran out at my last job, and I was quite frantically searching for a new place of employment. After 2 agonizing weeks of unemployment (hint: I’m being sarcastic), I found a new position!
I now work for a company called Thomas Arts (no, I don’t own it) as a User Experience and Information Architect. Dang I love the work I do. I love researching, analyzing, mapping out, and improving the emotional experience a user/customer goes through. Even now, my position is kind of new, and figuring out how I fit into a marketing agency (vs. just a software or product developing company) has been a challenge. I’ve been moved from the digital team over to Strategy, which has been great.
NOW, ABOUT THE WRITING
Last year was actually a pretty decent year for writing, job search/new job drama considered. I finished editing ROBBING GODS and TWO MASTERS. Something I had intended to do in 2016. They both turned out wonderfully! I am now doing a final revision on both with some things I’ve learned from The Emotional Craft of Fiction. More about that below.
THE BALANCE BETWEEN 1st Draft
Near the end of last year (November) I officially started out on the first draft of a novel called THE BALANCE BETWEEN. I finished February 2nd 2018 at 140k words. The fastest I’ve ever written (I had 2k-5k days). It’s a story I’ve been brainstorming for years. It’s about a fallen star god who has to overcome his addictions to stop his cosmic grandmother from consuming the universe:
People with the lifecycles of stars. A galaxy of a hundred flat worlds connected by portals. And magic space-monks. Part of the inspiration of this story was watching Star Wars, where George Lucas totally missed the mark on Buddhism, and thinking: “I can do magic Buddhist space monks better!” I undertook a deep study of philosophy, religion, and physics starting with quantum field theory and going all the way astrophysics and turned it all into a unified magic system. Meditation, balance, and surrender are important aspects to using this magic system. It also gave me the roots for EVERY magic system I’ve ever written. This one can describe them all, almost like code. I even drew this cool chart (spent WAY too much time on it of course), with a little inspiration from Sanderson:
THE EMOTIONAL CRAFT OF FICTION
Last year I also discovered THE EMOTIONAL CRAFT OF FICTION. This is the single greatest book on writing fiction I’ve ever read. It’s written by Donald Maass, a fantastic literary agent. I’ve also read 21ST CENTURY FICTION (which is amazing) and several other of his writing books. But THE EMOTIONAL CRAFT OF FICTION takes the cake.
It teaches you what types of writing, what types of characters, and what types of plot turns have an ACTUAL emotional impact on your readers. Each chapter has a list of questions, and I went through many of them while outlining THE BALANCE BETWEEN, and now I’m going through all of them as I edit.
This book is one of the reasons I wrote THE BALANCE BETWEEN so quickly. It challenges you to reach inside yourself and find that which affects YOU the most. Because if you are passionate about it, then your readers will feel that. They might not agree, but they’ll feel it.
Some examples of questions:
- Think about your protagonist. What is one good thing your protagonist finds exceptionally hard to do?
- Work backward to make that virtuous act even more difficult. Later on, perhaps following a catharsis, find a way for your protagonist to do, at last, that good deed.
- Which character has a justified grudge against another? Build the reasons for it, then enact forgiveness.
- Identify a higher emotion you’d like your readers to feel: self-control, courage, perseverance, truthfulness, fairness, respect, generosity, forgiveness, service, sacrifice, discernment, integrity, humility, readiness, or wisdom.
- Choose a character whose nature is, or whom you can make, the opposite of this quality. Who most needs to learn this lesson, see a truth, adopt this virtue, and change?
- Create three events that both build the necessity of change and necessary reasons to resist it. These events are the anticipation phase.
- Finally, create the event that will bring home to your character the better way of being. How can this character show us her better self? This is the moment when you will stir higher emotion in your readers.
STARKEST CONTRAST=EMOTIONAL IMPACT
To oversimplify, much of his book has to do with making the contrasts starker. Instead of someone’s arc being: “protagonist doesn’t think much at all about others” to “helps somebody once”. Make it so that she is EXTREMELY selfish, and the end state is like SACRIFICES herself. Take the elements of your story and PULL them to the extremes. One character forgives another? Make it both HARDER to forgive, and MORE IMPORTANT that they do forgive. The more impossible/more important you make something seem, the more emotionally powerful it will be when it finally happens.
His other book, 21ST CENTURY FICTION, tells you to do this:
- What disturbs you the most? Angers you? What do you hate most in this world? What makes you so sad or angry you can hardly handle it, let alone talk about it?
- What excites you? Makes you overjoyed? What experiences in this life make you the happiest? What do you love more than anything in the world?
- Now, WRITE ABOUT THOSE THINGS. Yes, even the things that disturb you most. Because THOSE THINGS will have the greatest emotional impact on you as a writer, and that will transfer to your readers.
So, THE BALANCE BETWEEN has those things. The deaths of loved ones and innocents. The struggles of addiction. Feelings of abandonment from family. The feeling of failing everyone you love. But it also has redemption, recovery, forgiveness, the promise that all the suffering in this life will pale in comparison to the healing in the life to come.
PLANS FOR 2018
This year, I’ve been attending MANY Utah writing conferences, learning more, making contacts. Today I’m going to meet with some Epic Fantasy writers I met at a conference to try to make a writer’s group. I’ve been submitting a LOT more. I’m going through the BALANCE BETWEEN and revise with the Emotional Craft chapter questions. I plan on making a few edits to the endings of ROBBING GODS and TWO MASTERS. It feels great to be alive.
I’m working on my pitches and all of my submission materials. I’ve got to learn to be able to pitch on a dime, in person. Be excited! Those are my big emphasis’s this year. I hope it works out!
I’ve also gotten MUCH more involved on Twitter, not necessarily to get more followers, but really just to be more involved. One of the most important things I learned was at LTUE when one panelist said “You have to get 20k Twitter followers and network up the wazoo before publishers will even look at you!” and Myke Cole said he disagreed, he said “I spent a lot of time to network through SFFWA, made a great connection with an editor, and the first few books I sent him he said were terrible. My friend, who had been writing novels this whole time, honing his craft, got his book accepted by this same editor when I introduced them. The most important thing is to hone your craft. If you don’t have that, you don’t have anything.” (Not an exact quote, but you get the gist). I told him afterward I appreciated his comment. I even read one of his books! (He has like, 6-7 published works now). Will be writing a review on that too.
PLANS FOR 2019?
I’ve paid for Superstars Writing Seminars, in Colorado. Which will happen February 2019. High profile writers, agents, and editors will be teaching classes. And it ain’t a cheap conference (650$, even with a referral discount!), but it’s time I took my writing career to the next level. I’ve written 7 novels, it’s about time I start pitching and networking more. Donald Maass will even be there! I hope for the chance to pitch to him in person! He reps Brent Weeks, one of my favorite authors.
THAT’S ALL FOLKS
Keep reading. Keep writing. Keep honing your craft. Keep submitting.