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The Edge of Snow and Dust is Live!

Hello Readers,

Today I debut my novel! It has been a difficult but rewarding journey. From drafting more than five years ago, to writing fan-fiction back in high school, to sketching ideas way back in Junior High. It has all led to this. So please take a look, read a little of the Look Inside and join Garekk, Anila and so many other characters in this fantasy world! And don’t forget to leave a review.

Take care!

 

A Great Launch

Hello Readers,

Two weeks have passed since I published The Edge of Snow and Dust. First off, thank you! Thank you to everyone who bought either a digital or paperback copy. To update the book’s report page and see the sales number climb was exhilarating.  As I was telling a close friend, the story I had could only come alive when someone read it. When it was in my head, or silent on my computer, it still wasn’t alive. Not until you the reader breathed life into it as your eyes traveled across its pages. So for that, thank you so much. And thank you to all those who liked and shared my Facebook post, it helped spread the word and calm my nerves those first few moments after publishing. It was a wonderful moment of many firsts. My first published novel, my first digital sale, first paperback bought. It was all very exciting. Now not all of it was stress free and fun.

There were a few technical errors such as when the paperback went live. On Amazon’s back-end, I linked the two versions of the novel. The ebook was formatted and uploaded first with the paperback following a few days later. The ebook had the official release date, so when I finished and uploaded the paperback I thought it would do the same. Nope! Instead, it went live a few days early. I learned much and gained a real morale boost, both of which will carry me into the second book. But first a bit of business news –

 

The novel at the moment is only available on Amazon ($2.99 for the ebook, $15.99). I know some people don’t have Kindles or shop at Amazon. I am looking into getting it onto Barnes and Nobles website and maybe even getting it carried at their Webster location. I’ll keep you updated on that front.

The other is book signing. A lot of people were wondering if I would sign their book in the Rochester area. Of course I would! I am exploring bookstores for a book signing event, either solo or with other aspiring authors. Again, I’ll let you know as soon as I do.

Now onto the second book. While I worked on the publishing process for Book 1 of the Star Soul Series, I had already begun planning and plotting the second with a bonus. I’ll be writing a short story leading into the second book and it’ll be free! I’ll post it here on the website with a mailing list. Then you’ll be notified the moment Book 2 is released.

That’s all I have at the moment. Next week I’ll discuss my plotting process and hopefully have even more great news to share. Until then. . .

Take care!

The Day Has Come

Hello Readers,Scribe

This is it! The week of release! It has taken me a lot of long hard hours, plotting, writing, revising, and learning to get here. But here we finally are.

Both the ebook and the paperback of The Edge of Snow and Dust will be available this Friday July 19th! I’ll be posting a link to the page at 8am here and on Facebook, so stay tuned!

Let me go into a few quick details about the release and at the end I’ll reveal the book cover!

My career as a writer will be different. As a customer, I’ve noticed several trends bothering me. I play video games, a lot, and the quality-to-cost nowadays is grossly disproportionate. There are $60 games giving you only an hour or two of content. You hear game making is expensive then find out the CEO of the company is pulling in tens of millions of dollars. That’d be fine if the average Joe wasn’t drowning in bills and yearning for a raise. Therefore, I am going to breakdown the cost of each of my books so people know exactly what they are getting when they buy my stories.

I am releasing The Edge of Snow and Dust in both ebook and paperback form. The ebook of 168,000 words (the average for fantasy is closer to 100,000) will cost $2.99 with my royalty being $2.01. Checking Amazon’s metrics and my own research, $2.99 is the average. So you are getting 68,000 words over the average for the average price!

The paperback will cost $15.99. It is 6 inches by 9 inches and 499 pages. Most of the fantasy novels I researched are 5 to 5 1/2 by 8 and average around 500 pages. Again more bang for your buck. It cost $6.84 to make the book and Amazon gets their 40% cut. I earn then $2.76 with each paperback sold. That extra 75 cents above the ebook royalty is because. . . IF you buy the paperback, you get the ebook for free! I’ve gone through too many experiences where I had the “analog” copy of a product only to realized I needed to buy the “electronic” version for convenience. So it was wonderful when I saw the option to give you the electronic for free.

And I’ll do this for each of my books. I want you, the reader, to know what you are paying for. I hope, somehow, this starts a trend where producers of art or any kind of product shows you the cost to make the item and the profit to be gained. Maybe it’ll slow down the need to maximize profits and shift people’s focus to just producing good works.

Now on to the cover! I went to Fiverr.com, a website for freelancers, and found someone to create my book cover. I messaged her a few times with my idea for a cover, setup a payment with the website, and she produced the cover within a week. The first version I got had a few elements I wanted and a few that needed correcting. Then back and forth we went until I felt it captured the story. I then spent another week myself making a few changes here and there and this is the result. The cover to – The Edge of Snow and Dust.

The Edge of Snow and Dust Book Cover Front (Fin)jpg

Keep an eye out for this cover and the link to the book page this Friday. Then please enjoy a story I’ve worked hard on and cared passionately about for the past few years. And this is only the start, I’ve already started writing the second book in the Star Soul Saga with a tie-in short story. So please continue to join me on this journey of fantasy stories about magic and might.

 

Take care!

The Core Is Done. Time To build The Frame.

Hello Readers!

A few days ago I posted the completion of The Edge of Snow and Dust. It was hard and long journey, but I learned so much. The writing process took about five months. The editing took another two. It would have been longer if I hadn’t found a great program: ProWritingAid. The program’s UI is simple and effective but its real features came in its stages and explanations. Grammar, syntax, word usage, verb tenses, it breaks them all down into steps. And within those steps are explanations and examples to teach you as you edit, which only speeds up editing as you notice on your own the various ways

to make your writing tighter and more effective.

With the editing done I had to decide how people would read my novel. Digital is the most convenient but there is still a strong desire to hold something tangible in your hand. For digital I used Amazon’s tools to format the font, chapters, even parts of the design. For paperback I studied the types and sizes the fantasy genre used and came up with the dimensions and style for my book. The Edge of Snow and Dust will be printed  6 X 9 with an inch and a third spine with 520 pages. 6 X 9 is the largest I could get without it being a strange custom made book which would only add to the cost.  There are smaller sizes such as 4 X 7 or 5 X 8, but I would have to compromise on the font, making it difficult to read, or add more pages making them almost a thick as they were long. So make room on your shelves for a great 6 X 9 written with passion and care.

And as a bonus to all those who’ve followed my journey, I’ve added below the official back cover to The Edge of Snow and Dust with the finalized story blurb to jump start your imagination. In a few days I’ll reveal the final cover and the cost br

eakdown for the novel.

Take care!

 

It’s Been A Journey, But We’re Now On Our Way.

Hello Readers!

The title of today’s post couldn’t be more true. I posted on Facebook a few times over the past couple months reporting my progress with finishing and editing The Edge of Snow and Dust. When I finished the complete rewrite it came in at about 200,000 words, or about 2/3 the length of the first Game of Thrones book. But through the power of editing I cut it down to 170,000 words. I then gave it one more pass and cut it down to 168,000 words. And with that…

 

I finished! My “Edit” book marker slid past the last page. And it felt great! Now that didn’t mean I had reached the finish line, but I had finished telling my story. No more edits, no more rewrites, it was as I wanted it, and boy was it a journey. A wonderful person who accompanied me was a YouTuber named Martin Molin. Martin is a musician in a band called Wintergatan. It follows his journey as he builds a huge marble machine to play music. (https://youtu.be/C8qyVURtSZc)

I watched as he took big leaps forward, hit concrete walls, then found a way through them. He was experiencing on a big mechanical scale what I was on a small creative scale. As he tried to solve the marble lift portion of his machine, I would try to figure a way to connect two plot points together seamlessly. As he pushed forward, so did I. I would set a goal at 2,000 words a day but get so caught up in the moment of a scene, that I’d end the day with 6,000. I felt the thrill of writing again. And now as Martin said “It’s been a journey, but we’re now on our way.”

My next post will focus on the next steps towards publishing The Edge of Snow and Dust: front matter and book size, book cover, pricing, and distribution.

Take Care!

An Observing Creator

Hello Readers,

Last week I told you I started a second iteration of The Edge of Snow and Dust. It was a pretty long post, over two thousands words actually. This time I’d thought I keep this one relatively short. Today I want to show you the mind of a creator not while he or she is hard at work making a movie, a song, or a book. But what runs through their mind while they are consuming others’ creative works.

First off a quick little background note. After taking a year off from high school, I attended Monroe Community College here in Rochester, graduating in 2007 with an Associates in Mechanical Technology. Everyone said I had an analytical mind and was great at building things, so the degree made sense. My family and friends constantly noticed me staring hard into an object, speculated on how it was designed, and then guess ways it could be improved. That was all well and good, and encouraged by my parents. But the same enthusiasm cannot be said when I deconstructed art. Instead I constantly hear, “stop analyzing it.”

See when I watch a movie, hear a song, or read a book, I usually have a list of observations I want to talk about afterwards. In each piece of art there is so much to breakdown and understand. “The director introduced the unicorn twice but completely forgot to give us the payoff, or the editor cut it. I wonder why?” or to everyone’s chagrin, “You could definitely tell that was a studio note. The character’s flaw should have been this, but that would turn off this audience, and they wanted that money.” Those around me hear all this an assume I can’t see the art, or don’t like art in general, or enjoy ripping apart art. None of its true.

I break them down because I am a creator at heart. Be it fan-fiction (of which I have written plenty), to writing my novel, to quickly coming up with an absurd take on a commercial, I am always creating. And as a creator, I know what messages I want to convey with my own creations. Character traits that resonate with me or messages that have affected my life that I hope can have the same effect on others. So when I hear people say “just enjoy the thing” or “it’s a movie you can just turn your brain off and enjoy” I fundamentally disagree. These aren’t manufactured creations. Someone living and breathing whose life is a thick novel of joy and sadness and fear created this thing. You can learn so much by analyzing why they used this paint brush, this color, this camera lens or angle, or this instrument. And if some big corporation did manufacture that song or movie with a boardroom of executives with polling data and test audiences, then what does that say about the society that created those people or warranted those studio notes. I’ll give my creator eye on two examples.

I saw Bumblebee yesterday, a Transformers prequel with a different director and take on the fighting robot mythos. I really enjoyed it. It felt like a movie, felt like a story. With each sequel under Director Michael Bay becoming more and more incoherent, I was really hoping for a change in vision. Now it is not perfect and as a creator I could see the studio notes and deals within the movie. Firstly, (minor spoilers) we see a number of transformers that look like the toys from the 80’s which served two purposes. One, to let us know they are abandoning the more insect look the previous five movies had. And two, more importantly, to hit us with nostalgia. Nostalgia is a powerful tool when you want someone entertained. For very little effort you can remind people of a portion of their live that never existed. Boy was Bumblebee banking on that. After the opening scene, the audience is hit with 80’s posters and gadgets, 80’s TV shows, and FOUR famous 80’s songs played back to back over scenes that just don’t need them. Why do all this? Because Stranger Things on Netflix made 80’s nostalgia popular and profitable.

Seeing all this nostalgia didn’t affect me. I had seen countless new shows find reasons to pull themselves back to the 80’s to try and jump on this bandwagon. It didn’t ruin the story for me, but I noticed it. I noticed that was the studio hoping to revitalize their dying big blockbuster franchise. But I also noticed a touching story of a character trying to get over some difficult hurdles in life with a giant transforming VW Beetle trying to do the same. By noticing and separating the studio mandates and the writer and directors vision, I was able to connect with real people who made something they wished to share.

Another example I will give you is my own personal take on today’s popular music. Most of what I hear today sounds so similar in tone, pace, style, that I can’t tell them apart. Even the message feels confined to a specific topic: love. My girlfriend, Lord bless her, has to deal with me asking a sarcastic question every time we get in the car. “Hey, is this song by that girl, you know, the one that sounds like all the others, about that guy she loves but shouldn’t, or has and is leaving, or loves him and is leaving because she shouldn’t have him but does?” And she always shouts, “I like this song!” I then ask who is it by and she starts laughing, “I don’t know.”

From a creator point of view I only make fun of the songs because I know the corporate thought behind it. Because of how integrated the internet is in our life, especially with our cellphones instantaneous connection we, as the older generation loves to point out, don’t communicate with one another. Which is factually false. We now communicate with more people than ever and with people we would never see in real life. And personally that’s okay. You can connect with like-minded groups about things you love. I play D&D, Call of Cthulhu, and other rpg’s. But my close  group of friends don’t. But online I can find a community that does, and we can talk and debate and laugh about it together. We may not be able to touch one another but we are still communicating.

However due to these long-ranged spread out communities, it is harder to find a connection with people closer to us that we are attracted to. Think about it, if you saw someone at the store whom you found attractive, say they laughed at something and the laugh was so genuine and warm, what would be your “in”? Would you just start laughing with no context, walk over and just ask what’s funny? Most of the options you would come up with would be weird or unnatural. Now before social media, you would know someone who would know someone who knew that person. Now you don’t and instead you wonder what-if. Then get in the car and what do you know, there’s a song on the radio or Pandora or Spotify describing how you feel. Because so many people constantly struggle to find a natural way to connect in a physical space setting when it is so easy to talk online, there’s more and more songs about it. I see all this by breaking down why corporations would want to constantly create eerily similar music and radio stations play the same four songs over and over again. Those songs make money. Despite seeing the generic song on the radio as a studio crafted, purpose built, money making opportunity, I can understand why they are prevalent and what that says about our society and the individual.

I can see the art.

So the next piece of art you consume, in its infinite forms, consider breaking it down. Seperate it into is many components and see not how it affects you, but what glimpses it gives into the state of our society today. Why is this subject the focus of so many artist? You might fall down a rabbit hole like I do, but you might just learn something that’ll give that art a new perspective. A new perspective that might turn you into a creator.

Take care!

Standing Eight Count

Hello Readers!

Happy New Years!

It’s been a while, my last post being the end of August and a year after I started this website.  With 2019 here, I thought an update was in order. I would have done it sooner but it has taken me a while to get back up (a nod to the post’s title). But I’m back on my feet and ready to go. Now the update:

If you recall I had nearly rewritten The Edge of Snow and Dust from beginning to end, and was asking for beta readers to help review the novel from a story perspective before I hired an editor to work on the mechanics. The project would start on September 1st and end on Halloween. From my research, you should give your beta readers a month to read your story, to factor in their own lives. Since my word count was higher than the average (Mine weighing in at 158,000; the average 100,000) I gave them an extra month.

Halloween, that was the mark. If I was going to have time to incorporate the beta readers comments, give it to an editor, and then correct what they noted to release it in time for Black Friday then the 31st of October was the latest I could wait. With that date circled, I sent out the manuscript to everyone whom volunteered to be  beta readers. I broke up the novel into three parts. (Three rounds in the ring, that’s all I need.)

The first part was reading the Prologue to Chapter 3. If the first part didn’t catch my beta readers than it was best to know as quickly as possible. I asked for responses by the end of the first week as I was on that tight deadline. Out of the seven, I got four responses. Most didn’t seem to have any problems with the story and were noting specifically the grammatical errors. That was understandable as I noticed them too during my own self-editing. I tried to lean them more towards the character and stories but as my girlfriend noted, sometimes the right grammatical error can take someone out of a story. I took their circling the errors however as a good sign. Bad sticks out, if they aren’t commenting on the characters or story then thumbs up. (Those jabs, they’re strong but I can handle them. Just have to keep my guard up and keep pushing.)

The second stage (Round 2, ding!) was the first half of the novel. Through coincidence or talent (rooting for the latter) the midpoint was a great cliffhanger for the beta readers. On the 7th, a week after starting the beta testing, I sent out the first half. This gave me time to continue refining the second half, most of it technical stuff such as dialogue tags, further descriptions of certain locations or characters, and any plot holes that were in my mind but not on the paper.

Each week I would go over the second half and each week I would hear nothing from my beta readers. No questions on story structure that may be confusing, or characters not quite visually fleshed out, nothing. My girlfriend, Lord bless her, had to hear me every couple of days speculate on what was going on. Was my novel that good? Was it so bad no one wanted to tell me? Did they receive the emails? Then September 30th comes, a full month has passed since I’ve sent out my story and I’ve heard nothing. So I contact the beta readers for a quick check in, just any update on their progress. (What happened, that right hook came out of nowhere. I think I’m cut just above the eye, but I can still see. I’m alright.)

I emailed and messaged all my beta readers and saw notifications that they had seen or read my messages. A full day goes by and no one response. Not a “hey I’ll email you as soon as I can” or “at work, text ya tomorrow”. Just silence. Silence added to the previous weeks of silence. I start to panic: maybe it is terrible! I look over my storyboard, my character notes, plot points, looking for where everyone may have ran into an issue. One month was enough time for most fantasy novels at a 100,000 words. I had given them a month to only read half of mine, so about 80,000. They should have been done with the first half, or close anyway.

It isn’t until I inform them that I’ll look for more beta readers, that the originals respond. I learn from some that they haven’t read the 5th Chapter. They had covered the first three in a week and then over the course of a month barely read the forth? The others say their reading it but nothing more than that. Still no feedback, not even an “Hey, Anila is a cool name”.  I scramble to find more beta readers, anyone willing to take on the crunched deadline of only 30 days instead of 60. (I’ve taken some serious blows, a few good shots to the gut. My legs are jelly and my hearings muffled but I’m still standing waiting for the bell. There it is. Round 3 let’s go.)

By mid October only two had made it to the last step, the second half of the manuscript. I keep being told by everyone else they are going to make the deadline. I offer them bailouts: just tell me where you are now, answer the questionnaire based on that and I’ll take it from there. They all say the same, they don’t need a bailout, they’ll make the deadline, they still had however many days left to get there. But the analytical side of my mind just kept running the numbers. If you couldn’t read 80,000 in 30 days, how are you going to cover that in two weeks, now one week, now a few days? What I kept hearing was “just been busy”. (That jab known as ‘busy’ is keeping me at a distance and yet I keep eating them).

I just needed feedback, any kind from any where. Maybe everyone stumbled at the same point. One chapter, one section of track missing or broken. If I could just fix it. Keep the train rolling, make the deadline. I just needed someone to point me in the right direction, hell, any direction. (That cut’s bleeding pretty bad. I can’t see out my left anymore, don’t panic. Breathe, keep those nerves in check.)

Halloween comes. Midnight goes. Wait! I said they had two months. Halloween is still October. Still within two months. November 1st, 11:59 pm, that’s the true deadline.

11:59. . . midnight. 12:01 . . . 12:30 . . . 1am. (I think my rib broke, I can’t catch my breath)

Nothing from anyone.

My girlfriend comes into the living room and sees me staring at my story searching for a truth somewhere. People mentioned it was good, good is not great. Some mentioned it was great, but they would finish great.

(I’ve taken too many blows, can’t hear my corner anymore, what do I do, where do I go?)

She tells me her sister is on the last few pages. That’s right! I begged her sister to read it three weeks ago. She was one of the two that asked  for the second half. My girlfriend tells me she will give me her feedback the next day, including filling out the questionnaire.  The news catches me like the ropes of a boxing ring. I lean back against it, let it catch me. With it I can find my footing a push forward. (Hold on a few days, there’s still a few seconds left in the round, I can win this fight.)

The next day comes and my girlfriend tells me she just forwarded her sister’s email. (Here we go, just as coach taught me. Square your feet and press into the ball of your foot. Twist at the waist, generate the power there. Keep your punch in alignment) I open the email and two key points stick out among the well thought out review, “First half is boring, the second half feels rushed”. (I never even saw the punch. It lands square against my temple and everything goes dark. Boring. The second punch comes in so fast I barely register it. A deep blow to the gut. Rushed.)

Those two words are the death blows of a book. You never want it rushed and certainly not boring. The review drops me to the mat. My girlfriend tries to catch me. She tries to match up what her sister says with points in the story, trying to triage the damage. But each wound she finds has already compromised another vital part. Each filled out answer is like a referee counting me out. I take a day to process the information.

My girlfriend comes in and sees I have spread all my material across the table, a huge six by four folding table my dad and I built. My storyboard, my plot graph, my reference material, and the pictures of the main characters, only one item is missing from the table: the manuscript. When I looked at it I saw that fight, that boxing match. On it was my blood and sweat from five years of working on it. But it failed me. Each blow I took not just from the beta readers, but from all those before I had given a portion or section of the book to and they failed to read it, compounded into a devastation defeat. I was going to miss my deadline. Even if I spent every waking moment revising and restructuring the story, I would not make it.

In boxing, a Standing Eight Count, is a rule in place to give a boxer a moment to collect themselves before continuing. It doesn’t matter if you get up the moment you drop, or take a knee and rest for a moment, you have to wait eight seconds. Those eight seconds would put me pass the deadline. At 5,000 words a day it would be possible to at least get it done by mid December but with an editor taking two to four weeks, Christmas was impossible. For context, 5,000 words a day is twice the rate of Steven King who has a lifetime of experience. This is my first novel.

So I took those gloves, that manuscript, and hung them up. It’s done. I zipped the file and sent it to my backup drive. I put the paper copies in a box and carried it down to the storage unit. David Mamet, a playwright, said you can’t get good at writing unless you are willing to create something, put it out there, and fail. And fail I did.

I gave myself a week to come to terms with that failure. And to be honest with you, I still haven’t, not entirely. But that’s for another entry and maybe I’ll post it for you. After that week I stripped my backboard of all my notes and started with a single note card: Act-1 Scene-1. I started from the beginning with no strings attached to the past. I gathered up all my old notes and put them in a box and dropped it right beside the manuscript. I adopted a whole new style to writing, from plot gardening to character creating to prose styling. Like moving to a new gym, I started fresh with no connection to the old form. And it’s worked out.

I have written better and faster than ever before. I covered more in three weeks than I had the whole year. My characters can breathe, they react more naturally, the story flows more naturally. I cannot give you a deadline because I do not have one. What I can tell you is I plan on not only publishing it in 2019 but a second book as well. And that is just the start. With this new approach I have the ground work for several more books, including romance, drama, sci-fi. I can promise you they will be written and published. As long as I stick to this new “training regimen”. So stay tune readers, I may have lost the first fight but I’ll be back in the ring soon with stronger and tighter book.

Take care!

Reached the Summit

Hello readers!

I have some wonderful news, but first an apology. I am sorry for the long gap in posting. I know I said I would be posting more frequently after I decided to make this my career, however I had to adjust that.

Firstly, I was spending a lot of time writing and editing the post. I would sit in front of my computer at my website’s dashboard, trying to think of a good topic. I would come up with a few rough ideas, draft a post for each then see which felt right. Once I had settled on one I would edit and add to the draft. All this took time, time away from writing The Edge of Snow and Dust. Secondarily, I was writing just so you the readers had something to keep you interested in the website. I felt that should not have been the case. I already promised myself I would not be one of those Youtube streamers with the list videos: “10 characters that should be in your novel,” “20 things I wish I did differently” etc. I understand why they do it. While you are watching their videos they are establishing a connection which they hope translate into a sale when they publish their book. Something about it felt off, so instead I just did not post. I did something radical: I rewrote the whole thing!

During my last couple of posts, I was editing the tenth version of my story but it still did not feel write. First off, I was using outdated software to write which was slow and constantly disrupted my flow. Then after upgrading, I struggled to find the right environment. When should I write, should I have music in the background, should it be after dinner or before breakfast. And that is not even focusing on how to write. So after taking a week off to reset, I sat down and started back at the prologue. Line by line, story-point by story-point I tore down what was there and rebuilt it. Character names changed, backgrounds were tightened up, locations shifted, the world itself was rebuilt with a history that was clear to me. There was not a single sentence that I did not examine, not a single paragraph that was not altered.

So with that said, I have some great news: IT’S DONE!

I finished my manuscript after rebuilding it practically from scratch. At the moment it is 381 paperback pages (if I did my formatting right) with over twenty characters spanning twenty-five chapters. All of it reforged till what was before me was my best. Now it is time for the busy work. I have entered the “Beta Stage” of publishing a first novel. That entails gathering together a group of readers and presenting them with my manuscript, and see how they feel. They will give me feedback into how they feel with characters, how lost they were with particular scenes, and the general emotional state they find themselves in. With that feedback I check it against what I want them to feel, to know, to see. I could have an idea for a character, put him on paper, and feel the audience will resonate with them. However my beta readers could look at the same character and see the confidence as arrogant and reject them, which could have long reaching consequences for the rest of the novel.

Therefore I am asking for dedicated readers willing to read my novel and give me the critical feedback I need. I would send them portions of the story, three chapters or four at a time, and receive notes after each portion. That way the raw emotions and important questions will still be fresh in their mind. Then after they’ve finished I’ll send it off to an editor for a final line-edit then off to the printers! All those who give me feedback from start to finish will receive a signed copy of The Edge of Snow and Dust, and a mention in the acknowledgement page. So please, message me either on my Facebook page (where I usually post these links) or here, and we can work together to make The Edge of Snow and Dust a success.

Thanks and take care!

A Brisk Pace

Hello readers!

Sorry for the gap between this post and the last. Life created a bit of a traffic jam this month. Life has become so busy that I have turned to writing The Edge of Snow and Dust late at night, something I used to do after night shifts at the movie theater.

Speaking of being busy and having to keep leaping from one thing to another, I wanted to talk about pacing today. Pacing in storytelling is the flow of information given to the reader. Depending on the genre, be it horror, action, or romance, the pace can be slow and methodical or frantic and exciting. The key is to find a pace that keeps the reader engaged but not so confused or bored as to be taken out of the story. The reader should never feel the passage of time. Movies have the same challenge. I will use one movie with two different cuts to illustrate good pacing from meandering pacing. The 1986 Theatrical Cut of Aliens, directed by James Cameron, and its 1991 Special Edition cut.

Aliens is a fantastic movie, one whose legacy is an ever-expanding franchise with a film just released last year. It is an action movie’s take on its predecessor’s horror. I remembered when I was a teenager watching it on VHS over and over again. The film only has two great action set pieces: the Colonial Marines first encounter with the xenomorphs and Ripley’s rescue of newt, and I loved them both. A quick note – an action set piece is action with multiple scenes and points of view. It tends to be longer than an action scene, which usually occupies one location and seen from one point of view. By today’s standard, two exciting set pieces is considered too few to be an action film. Today action movies are categorized by having so much going on on-screen that you forget what the hell the plot is. With cities and even planets exploding across a gigantic theater screen and the bass so thick it reverberates in your chest, you would think the audience would be wide-eyed and attentive. If you were to turn around and face the audience, you would see a field of boredom. A lot of that boredom can be linked to pacing.

The Special Edition cut is 14 minutes longer than the Theatrical Cut. The extra 14 minutes include additional background on the main character, shows what starts the conflict of the movie, and two extra action scenes. The background scene is Ellen Ripley finds out her daughter passed away while she was in cryosleep. The scene starting the conflict is Newt’s family finding the derelict ship. Both of these are at the beginning of the film. When I first watch the Special Edition, I was surprised the two scenes were cut from the film. They filled out the story, gave the audience more information. It even shows the catalyst that leads to the great action.  How could giving the audience more hurt the story? Answer: pacing.

The Special Edition starts out at a slow pace so the audience can settle into the world in which the story takes place, just like the Theatrical Cut. The additional information does not build more of the world it slows down the “river” to a crawl. It stretches the movie to the point that the first xenomorph is not seen until the 1:14 mark. Sure there is a facehugger when Newt’s family finds the ship at the 20-minute mark, but that excitement actually upsets the pacing. The audience watches a working family of four head to the derelict ship just outside their colony on planet LV-426. If the audience saw the first movie, they know what’s in store, if they had not then the pacing of the scene would build the suspense.  The family’s off-road vehicle crawls along the desolate ground, letting the suspense build as they come upon the ship. The parents head into the ship; the music is mysterious and low. Then a jump cut to show the passage of time. Then, boom! Facehugger, fear! A clash of building music, roaring wind, and a shrieking girl. The audience is ready for the pace to pick up, the story to gain speed. Time to get to the planet, get to where the action is.

Not so fast. After the exciting and terrifying facehugger scene, the audience has to sit for another 45 minutes, almost an hour before the first action set piece. The elevation then sudden braking of pace kicks the audience out of the experience and makes the movie’s length known.

The Theatrical Cut does not have the facehugger scene. The audience instead finds out contact with the colony has been lost with no explanation. Ripley joins the marines sent to investigate. The military routine of the Colonial Marines’ briefing and preparation to deploy to the colony cranks up the pace and suspense in a more natural way. Their by-the-numbers search and clearing of the colony builds up the suspense just like the facehugger scene. Only now they have to wait 15 minutes instead of the original 45 for the first action set piece. And that action hits at precisely 1 hour. If this were a streaming show, the audience binge-watching the series would reward them with excitement at the very start of episode 2. Perfect!

A movie, or any story for that matter, should move at such a pace that by the time you reach the end you are shocked at the passage of time and yet are satisfied with what it gave you. You should never feel the tug to check your phone, think about what chore you have to tackle when the story ends, or look around upset that the story you were ready to invest in is already over.

What story did you get caught up in that time flew by? That by the time the story finished you were stunned how much time had passed? Leave a comment below; I would love to discover these stories which had mastered the art of pacing.

Take care!

Progress Report

Hello readers! It has been six months since my website went up and the announcement I was writing The Edge of Snow and Dust. Six months of a lot of hard work with an immense amount of time researching the field of storytelling and writing. I figured then I should show you how far I’ve come.

Currently I am at 131,130 words, that spans over twenty-two chapters so far. Just as a reference, the Harry Potter series averaged about 154,000 words. So you know you will be getting the most about of bang for your buck. Now as a manuscript 131,000 words equals about 496 pages. Formatted for ebook, the primary way the book will be sold, it becomes about 211 pages. I will also have hardcovers for those looking to have something more tangible.

You can see the manuscript is a little more than twice the size of the ebook.  A few people I have talked to have asked what exactly is a manuscript and why it is so much bigger than the final novel? A manuscript is the “I’m almost done” part of writing. It is after you have finished developing your characters, describing the settings, and plotting out the story. Unless your editor believes there should be some radical change, it is done. The reason the manuscript is double size is because it is double spaced. It needs to be so that editor can have room to make comments and corrections, as well as make it much easier to reread sections without getting lost moving from one line to the next. I primary write using single space until I feel the chapter is done. Then as a marker, as another line in the sand if you read my last post, signaling I am one step closer to finishing the novel.

I get questions about too about the chapters. How do you know how many chapters it should be? Truth is I don’t, not really. Yes, chapters are more or less scenes in a movie. When a scene has run its course and pushed the story far enough along it ends and another begins. Each scene had could be the mark for another chapter. However another mindset is to have multiple scenes within a chapter. There is no set rule. I personally write until a feeling or an idea is finished. That means it could take just a single scene or a series of them for that feeling to work itself out. When a new one starts to surface, that’s when I jump to the next chapter.

The final question I get is: when will it be done? Last winter was my deadline and in a superficial way I made it. The story was finished. There was a beginning, a middle, and an end. It was not however, complete. There were emotions that I was only able to touched on, thrills not quite used to their fullest. I kept feeling this hook tug at me during my final reread before moving on to publishing. It was a signal there was more meat on the bone.

The answer is soon. I know it is abstract but it is the truth. I have purchased new software which is allowing me to work quicker. I have arranged a schedule that’s allowing me to get the most out of the day. This is now my full-time job. Eight hours a day writing and editing. And I can see that finish line. I wanted you, readers, who have journeyed with me this far to have some hard numbers to see how far we’ve come. It has been an exhilarating six months doing something I am passionate about. I hope you will join me as see that passion payoff.

Take care!