Updated: Dec 11, 2021
Hello Everyone, and Happy Holidays, This is likely my last blog for the year. So, what would be more fitting than to talk about my crown
achievement? Then the publication of my first novel? The Wrench in the Machine. Which is on Discount for the remainder of December. So get it while you can!
This is the first book of my Steampunk/Atompunk/Cosmic Horror/whatever label you want to put on it. Curious what your thoughts on it are, so please let me know in the comments. Anyway, what did I learn from writing my first book? And what should you, an aspiring writer, need to be mindful of.
1. Just start writing
Over the years I have learned to distingue writers from people who say they want to write a book. Writers write. Sounds obvious. But how often have you heard aspiring writers talking about how they want to write a book? They spend years building their awesome super unique totally original world and how it going to be better than JJR Martin's, etc.
Nothing is less interesting than hearing a person talk about a fictional world of one's own creation. After all, what is the point of learning about a location you never get to visit?
How about, start writing the story and making people want to 'visit' your world. All those years building the world could have been spent working on the book itself, and honing one's skill as a writer.
One day, I just sat down and started writing with a few goals in mind.
1. This book needed to be an introduction to the Multiverse of AoI.
2. I would go from mundane to bat shit insane
3. It needs to contain some of the case files from the series that were already publicly available.
And that's about all the preparation I had made going into this. I picked one of the antagonists from the series. Casefile S-36 and let the plot develop from there. And it worked. People enjoyed the plot and characters. Especially Ol'Barrow grew out to be very popular with the readers.
And no, I did not spend a year on working out his back story, like making notes about what his favorite flavor of crayons was as a kid.
His back story was what the story required it to be. No more, no less. When I started, he was just a name. By the end, he was a fully developed character with his own goals and shortcomings.
2. Write short stories
Ok, I lied when I said I had barely done any preparation. I wrote well over a few dozen short stories by the time I started writing the novel. And no, I don't mean lore. I mean stories in the form of case files (which can be found here https://www.associationofishtar.com/stories )
Not only are short stories a good exercise in:
a. learning to write, and
b. learning how to finish a story. Seriously. If you can't finish a short story, how do expect to finish a whole book?
Writing short stories are not just about skill, but also mentally adjusting oneself to say "It is good enough". Because I am recording my own audiobook I am confronted with my own writing style at times. And while I am still proud of the novel as a whole, sometimes I come across a sentence where I'm like. "Could have done that better". Especially in my short stories. But that's all part of the writing process. If you want to be a serious writer, you can't just write one book. You have prepared to write another, which makes your book just another stepping stone.
A second important reason is that short stories can be proof of concept. Do my ideas make for good storytelling? Is this something people want to read more of? Is the world-building doing what it is supposed to? And moreover, do you enjoy writing this? You have to spend 90.000 words on characters and situations. If you can't manage writing 3000 words, well you get the idea.
For me, writing these short stories has been invaluable. Not only do some of the most beloved characters of the series originate from these case files, like Igraine and The Call Girl. Through writing these stories I discovered the potential of many of the concepts.
When you explain your fiction to friends, you might have received questions you have not considered before. Again, you can answer such questions by resolving these in short fiction.
Short stories can also provide opportunities. Some magazines allow submissions from your extended universe, thus you are able to introduce people to your world and style of writing.
3. Read out loud
I'm often complimented for being easy to read. One way I achieve that is by reading all my stuff out loud when making revisions. And yes, I do use different voices for each character as I read. That way I can adjust dialogue accordingly.
More importantly, is that it allows me to discover tongue twisters, hard to pronounce word combinations or overall sentences that, once spoken out loud, don't make sense. Especially in an age where people prefer audiobooks, sentences that flow well of the tongue are important.
Also, I have software that has text-to-speech, and I found it very useful. Not only did I notice mistakes or bad flow. Despite the terrible voice I still found myself getting engaged in my own writing, which was a boost in my confidence that I achieved what I set out to do.
If you don't have text to speech, maybe you can ask a friend to do a terrible reading voice for you.
Yes, research. Because I love history, I write Steampunk. My definition for the Steampunk Genre is Cyberpunk in the Past. When I write my story I let science fiction clash with actual history. For that reason, I tell my artists I want costuming to be at least 80% authentic. For this, I actually research the topics I discuss. Does this mean if I can't find any sources, I don't write about it?
However, I spend many evenings going down rabbit holes when I felt I needed more information.
Like on the history of the British police, which turned out to be a treasure trove. Not only did I learn that the police forces were organized by Borough, but they also used to be the firefighters, and sometimes even street cleaners.
Yeah, can you imagine requesting a constable to clear a drain?
The same goes for developing the background of Associate 321. A former slave who escaped. Joined the U.S. navy. Afterward immigrated to Liberia, and after an incident joined the West Africa Squadron before going to Brazil. And yes, I can justify all of that with historical facts.
When it comes to contemporary mainstream fiction, there is an obvious lack of curiosity on behave of the creators who are only informed by mainstream media and discourse. Especially when it comes to the 19th century. They're definitely a lot of people who, because they read Charles Dickens, think they know everything there is they know about that period of history.
That being said, doing research is a time sink, but a rewarding one. You often discover facts you wouldn't even have considered otherwise and will enrich your fiction immensely.
5. Kill your Darlings
Not so much new wisdom, as it is the dark reality of its inevitability. KYD, refers to the process of selecting what goes into the story and what must be removed/left out. Now, this might shock some readers. So, click the spoiler button at your own peril.
Originally, the dog Old Boy, was going to die.
Yes, that is right. Like, I had this whole metaphor about humanity's place in the universe and it would have been followed up by a major character moment for Igraine. But I had the scrap it. I JUST COULDN'T DO IT...
6. Art Direction
Not entirely related to the novel, but it is when I got my first taste of it. By now I also created my first comic, S-36: The Call Girl, and I hope to make more. I wanted a special cover. So, I had to commission an artist, create instructions, find references, make sketches of possible compositions, describe what all the characters look like. Etc. I will likely do a separate blog in the future on this topic.
When people talk about writing, be it in blogs or videos. They talk about characters, plots, stories, and character progression. But editing is where most of your time will sink into. Especially as a dyslexic, I am lost without spell checkers. (Personally, I use Grammarly in my browser). Then there is the importance of Beta readers and finding a reliable editor. etc. There goes a lot of work into getting things right, and efficiency is important. Not just when you are working with deadlines, but also to remain motivated. Figuring what strategy works for you is important.
So, one major change I'll make is to focus on completing a rough draft of my second novel before getting into serious editing, unlike the first time around.
This also leads into...
8. Compatibility issues
When working with an editor, make sure you use the same software/version. Seriously. I would get feedback on a .doc document, and in various places 'spaces' were missing. Apparently, we were using different types of Microsoft Office that caused this bug. No idea why that caused the problem. Anyway, we solved it by using Google Documents.
Next time I'll use Open Office my
9. Manuscript Writing Software
Maybe you are a wiz at organizing your files, but I am not. There are various programs that help you organize your manuscript.
I use Scrivener to compose my rough drafts. I even made a video review of it and what it does. Unfortunately, a lot of these see programs are not (yet) compatible with spell checkers like Grammarly. A shame, but not necessarily a problem.
I use Scrivener mostly to organize my chapters, notes, story ideas, and research. It also has various macros and valuable advice included to present your manuscript in a professional way with the click of a button. It is a major time-saver that is worth the investment.
10. It's done?
The feeling you get when you type that finally punctuation. Well, I don't recall it, because finishing your draft is just a step on the road to getting it published. Even when self-publishing, it's not a matter of going to Amazon and press send. I already talked about editing. Then there is finding a publisher, marketing, formatting. If you think you can you can put your work on a website and your book is going to sell itself... Not gonna happen.
When looking for a publisher, check their website. See how they want manuscripts delivered and in what file formats. Make sure you understand how the ad-systems work. And networks. Don't underestimate the importance of getting to know people.
Wish I know more about marketing myself...
Well, after that somber note, here comes the part that will cheer you up. But first, thank you for making it through the end. In case you have published a book, please share your experiences in the comments so others might learn from it.
The section where you learn how you can reward me for my hard work. If you enjoy what we do here or on Youtube, please support us. Either become a patron on your preferred platform which can be found here. Or buy our books on Amazon, which are now on DISCOUNT. In the new year, these will also be available on Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, among others. S-36: The Call Girl
Also, The first three chapters of The Wrench in the Machine can be viewed on Youtube. So, don't say I never give you anything. Just saying.