Sunday, December 10, 2017

New Indie Authors: Beware of The Guru

An important change of pace for this blog. Consider this a public service announcement to new and newish writers, or anybody for that matter even thinking about writing a book.

There are a lot of how-to books out there about writing. Some are better than others. I haven't read one in ages - I've discovered over the years that you can find all the advice you need for free online. Even better, read a lot of fiction and pay attention as you read. Take out your favorite book, outline it, diagram the character arcs, see how it works. Go through it several times, each time with an eye toward something different: how does the author introduce a new character, how does the author describe setting, how does the author make this person sympathetic ... etc. This makes for the world's best homework ever. You'll love it. And you'll learn a lot by rolling your sleeves up like that.

But, if you really want to shell out a few bucks on how-to books, pick the ones written by authors who have sold a metric shit ton of books recently. If you've never heard of the author in question but are still eyeing their how-to book, go to Amazon and check out their fiction. Make sure they write in genres you write or intend to write in. This is important. There are a lot of universal "rules" to telling a story, but the best advice tends to be genre-specific. You can do certain things in romance that you cannot do in thrillers; there are certain things you should do with mysteries but not in sci-fi; etc. And, last but not least, double-check their fiction to see how well it is selling. Amazon lists sales ranks for every book on its site. Again, you want to find an author that is selling well right now. I cannot stress this enough. The indie publishing landscape changes significantly every 6 months or so. Strategies that worked for indie authors 5 years ago no longer work well, if at all.

That's how to pick a good how-to book on writing.

Moving on to gurus ...

Don't give them a dime of your money.



Okay, tell you what. You can give them your money if they guarantee you a specific ROI and offer your money back if you don't realize that ROI within a defined timeframe. And that's only if they can demonstrate a proven recent sales track record to you, with hard data. If there's someone out there offering those terms, then shit, tell me who they are and I'll sign up too.

But I'm pretty sure there's nobody out there doing that.

DO NOT pay anybody to "help" you write a book. Especially if they're going to charge you thousands of dollars to do so.

Don't do it.

You can pay someone for cover art. There is a steep, steep learning curve to book cover design. You can learn that as you go, but in the interim it's okay to shell out a few hundred dollars on a cover - because a good one will help sell your book and a bad one will turn readers away before they even get to the book description.

You can also pay someone to edit. The learning curve here isn't as steep compared to cover design, but still this helps. A good editor will save you a lot of grief.

But whatever you do, don't pay someone to be your mentor, your Obi-Wan, your guru, your whatever the fuck the shark wants to call himself or herself.


Let me put it this way. If someone claims they can help you write a bestseller, then why the hell aren't they just writing a bestseller themselves? They can pocket all the cash and not have to worry about dealing with clients whining to them about their book not selling as well as advertised.

Why else?

Whatever they're going to tell you, you can find online for free. You can find for yourself reading your favorite, bestselling authors. You can find for yourself in good how-to books. I'm overstating this, but essentially: nobody can make someone else a bestseller. Back in the day, NY publishing houses paid their staffs a lot of money to help authors along, to grow writers, to make them into bestsellers, and even these experts got it wrong more often than they got it right.

Historically, authors have been preyed upon by gurus and treated miserably by publishing houses with ridiculously lopsided contracts. Amazon came along and shook things up, making the playing field a bit more level.

But the gurus are still out there. It pisses me off to no end because most of these gurus are, or used to be, authors.

They should know better. They should remember what it was like for them. To be new and eager and bursting with energy, looking for someone--anyone--to give them the One Big Secret to Publishing.

They should remember how difficult they had it. They should remember how newbs are soft targets. How easily someone with starry eyes can be duped. It's predatory, it's dirty business, it's a fecking disgrace if you ask me if you are purposely targeting newb authors and promising them things you know you likely can't deliver upon and charging a small fortune.

Beware the gurus.

Especially if they're asking for thousands of dollars to help you along. Just don't do it.

In fairness, I am painting in pretty broad strokes here but my wider point stands: beware of the guru. If you're at all tempted to give someone money to be your writing coach or mentor, demand to see their recent sales records before you fork any of your hard-earned cash over. Seriously, you need to see hard data. Demand to see the last 6 months of their fiction royalties. If they won't share that with you, run--don't walk--to the nearest exit.

That is all.

Thursday, November 30, 2017


Wyetgerd's Ax is up to 72K. I wanted to finish the first draft before month's end, but that ain't happening. I started NANO a week late, Thanksgiving week was basically a wash, and administrative issues have eaten up more of my time recently than planned.

Still, I've gotten 72K. With a big day today, I might stretch that to 80K for the month of November which is nothing to scoff at. I'm at the 75% mark and can see the rest of the book, so it's just a matter of sitting down and getting it all out as quickly as possible. Wyetgerd's Ax will end up around the 100K mark which is a good length for this kind of book. As always, I'm thinking about a sequel.

I'm going to switch gears in December. There is a thriller I'd like to write and I'd like to begin The Bastard's Gambit as well. We'll see. Right now I have to focus on closing out this project so it doesn't bleed too much into December.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Quick NANO update and COMING SOON ...

Wyetgerd's Ax is up to 55,392 words. I'm not as far as I'd like to be but I have circumstances to blame for that. Not only did I forget my girls have early dismissal from school this week, but the little one was home sick yesterday too. Ah well. Life happens. No point in getting upset. As Galeran would have said: expect only what happens.

I think I can finish the first draft of Wyetgerd's Ax in a week's time. I'll need a couple big days to do that, and I'll need to stay up late too, but it's doable. These are first world problems, after all.

I've talked a lot about Wyetgerd's Ax on this blog without sharing any details. So I thought I'd drop the blurb here. But before I do that, allow me to talk about blurbing.

I used to write the blurb at the end of the process, after I'd written the book. I found it (and still do) incredibly difficult to distill a 100k word manuscript into an exciting 250 word book description that is supposed to entice readers. Inevitably, the inner dialog while trying to create a blurb went like this:

I need to introduce the hero and all the major characters, and oh yeah, I need a reader to understand the world too ... oh, and what about the royal hierarchy and nobility and their religions ... oh wait, magic is important too ... and oh shit, this guy shows up halfway through but he's really instrumental in ... and oh yeah! There's going to be a sequel so I better set this up too--

As you can surmise, my blurbs tended to be bloated and unintriguing precisely because I knew too much about the story and what happened before the story and what happened after the story. A blurb is supposed to only reveal the key details, it's supposed to hook fans of the genre, it's supposed to be a little mysterious, and it's supposed to give readers only a general sense of what to expect from the story.

Fortunately, I learned a trick from more experienced authors. Now I write my blurb first, before I even start the book. It's ridiculously easier this way. I even take it to the extreme and write the blurb before the outline.

When I do it this way, I still only have a general sense of the story, which is perfect because I can only think in terms of the bigger plot and character arcs. Good guy, something big happens, bad guys, good guys and bad guys will face off. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.

Once I do finish the story, I usually have to tweak the blurb but I'm always surprised by how little it has to change. I might have to emphasize THIS instead of THAT, or perhaps MAJOR DEVELOPMENT fell by the wayside and SOMETHING ELSE HAPPENED INSTEAD. That's okay. It's always easier to tweak an existing blurb that's 80% on point than summarize this monstrous book in a few words.

Anyway, here's the blurb I wrote for Wyetgerd's Ax before I outlined the story ...

After his father dies, Wisag loses his way. Running up gambling debts he cannot repay, killing men in drunken tavern fights, Wisag, once a young man so full of promise, now wanders the country under an assumed name, desperate to stay one step ahead of those he’s wronged.

One night, while sharing a drink with a childhood friend in a tavern, an old, battle-scarred soldier mocks Wisag. Brooking no insults, Wisag challenges the other to a fight. But the man he challenges isn’t just some old soldier. He’s a legend. And, when challenged, this old warrior only fights to the death.

When Wisag wakes the next morning, his whole life has changed. For now he carries Wyetgerd’s Ax.

Soon everyone looks to Wisag, either with a challenge, or a request for help. Wisag never wanted to be a hero. He was happy to live a life of no consequence, drinking, gambling, and whoring his way to an early death, but now a new path has opened to him.

The path of Wyetgerd.

And Wisag will be tested sooner than he thinks. When he sets out on a simple rescue mission to pay off a debt, Wisag finds himself immersed in a much larger conflict, one that reaches from the Thultac Mountains in the west to the warm climes of the far south, where the King sits his throne uneasily.

As he walks his new path, the legendary warrior Skodan will go with him, showing him the ways of Wyetgard. And Wisag will learn the hardest lesson of all: evil will triumph if the good do nothing.

Wisag gained fame by killing a legend. He will become a legend by defying a king.

Wyetgerd’s Ax is epic heroic fantasy at its best. From Brian O’Rourke, author of The Bastard’s Refuge

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Prodigal Girl is done

Greg Owen #3, The Prodigal Girl, is done. It's available for pre-order right now and releases one week from today, November 24th.

If you haven't, ahem, had an opportunity to meet my latest character, Greg Owen, here's your chance. These books are fast and fun, just as character-driven as they are plot-driven. People have told me they're actually funny too. I do try. Below are some passages that readers have written me about.

SOME BAD LANGUAGE BELOW (you've been warned)

Let’s get this out of the way.
My name’s Greg Owen.
At least two of these three things are true—I’m:

And handsome.

It takes forty-five minutes to reach Johnsonville and then another five to find the state penitentiary. It’s a little after noon now, so I call the pool hall just to make sure Wally and Roy haven’t burnt the place down.
“Greg Owen’s Den of Inequity,” somebody answers.
“Who the hell’s this?”
“Oh, hey, Greg. It’s Bernie.”
Of course Bernie, the freeloader with about eighteen tabs all across town, manages to show up the one day of the year I go with the honor system. 

I head back in, my head swimming. Becca and I share a nice dinner with good conversation, but I can’t stop thinking about Denise and Nick and the past and how Denise and I are falling right back into our old patterns of behavior. I’m the guy she comes to when she has a problem. She’s the girl for whom I inhabit that weird intra-space between friend and more than friend.
But hey—
That doesn’t stop me from inviting Becca back to my place.

Let’s get this out of the way—
My name’s Greg Owen, and there are three kinds of people in this world:
Those who are good at math.
And those who aren’t.

“You know, Greg,” Bernie begins, taking a break from his book, “boys and girls mature much more quickly these days than—”
“Shut the fuck up,” I say.
Bernie shuts the fuck up.

“Hey, guys,” I call out. “This is Lucy Hale, soon to be an Olympic athlete.”
Roy and Wally put down their cues and meet us at the register. Bernie’s jaw is still slack, his mouth wide open. He is in awe of this woman.
“Hi,” Lucy says, a touch shy.
“This is Roy and this is Wally.” I gesture at the two. “They fight like they’re married. But don’t let that fool you. They actually love each other.”
They smile and shake Lucy’s hand.
Roy says, “Greg has a lot of faults.”
“Gee, thanks, Roy.”
Roy continues, “But being oblivious isn’t one of them. You’re in good hands here.”
Wally nods. “He doesn’t eat well, or dress well, and his businesses leave a lot to be desired, but Greg is a good guy.”
“Stop selling me, guys,” I say, laughing.
Roy and Wally keep up with the jabber, so much so that Lucy is in stitches. Bernie’s mouth is still open, like a Venus fly trap.
“And this is Bernie,” I say. “He’s hard at work on a novel.”
Lucy smiles and offers her hand. “Nice to meet you.”
Her physique and pretty smile have robbed Bernie of the power of speech. Miracles do happen. Completely flustered, he shakes her hand.
Before his gaping mouth and wide eyes get even weirder, I say, “Hey, Bernie, could you get Lucy a bottled water?”
“Red or white?” he asks, and we laugh at this. Bernie hasn’t even realized what he’s said.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

11/15/17 Update - NANOWRIMO 2017

I blogged daily about my progress in The Bastard's Refuge. I haven't been doing that with Wyetgerd's Ax, mainly because I don't have many new things to say about the process. I'm plugging along at a good clip. As of last night when I stopped working, Wyetgerd's Ax was up to 49,581 words. The manuscript has reached the halfway point, and I know what the 3 or 4 major turns left in the story are. That book will be done before the end of the month, then I'll switch gears to another psy thriller.

I started NANOWRIMO late this month and will end up taking 3 days off during it to finish editing The Prodigal Girl. After 8 days, I've written almost 50k words. I'm very happy with that considering I'm also trying to edit another book in a very different genre at the same time.

The universe within Wyetgerd's Ax keeps getting bigger and bigger. I have an idea for a prequel now, which will be a shorter work that I (maybe) give away for free as part of my mailing list. That one is tentatively titled Skodan's Blade and I'm chomping at the bit to write that book. But first things first - you always have to finish the thing you're working on. If you stop before it's done and go onto something else, the odds of you completing the first project drop drastically.

I call it the artistic cliff.

I'll keep updating, just not on a daily basis. And hey, if you haven't signed up yet, you can still get the free preview of The Bastard's Refuge over on Instafreebie.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

11/9/17 and 11/10/17 Updates

In the last two days, I've written ~12,000 words. Total word count is 19,634.

I was trying to get to 20k last night but just got too tired. People have asked me what the secret is, and like with all magic tricks, the secret is kind of a let-down once you know what it is.

Finishing a book simply comes down to making the time. Ass in chair. The more your ass is in that chair, the more you write. Sounds too simple to be true, right? But that's how it works. Some days I'm more productive in 2 hours than I am in 4 hours, but for the most part, the more I'm in front of the computer, the more I will get done.

There have been days where I feel like I have nothing left to say, but still I sit down in front of the computer. If nothing comes, I think about the story in general. My mind usually drifts to the 3 or 4 really big scenes I've already planned for, and I grow excited and want to get back to work so I can get to those scenes. Sometimes all I have to do is ask myself how I can make the next part of the book the most exciting chapter ever. I resist the urge to put the laptop away or turn on the TV. Eventually I start writing and once I start, it's easier to keep going than it is to stop.

Wyetgerd's Ax is coming along nicely. The hero has "accepted" the call to adventure (right now he's doing it for the wrong reasons) and his decision will get him involved in a much larger conflict. From there, his problems escalate and, somewhere along the way, he truly accepts the call to adventure.  This change of character from reckless, self-destructive youth to young man willing to stand up against evil was one of the things that drew me to the story. The other was the initial hook.

The more I think about it, maybe that's all I need to get excited about an idea. A strong hook and a character that develops over the course of the story.

Sounds too simple to be true, right?


Thanks to everybody who downloaded The Stalked Girl during the promotion on Thursday. I hope you all dig it. Please make sure to tell 10,000 of your closest friends about the Greg Owen series.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

11/8/17 Update

My first day of NANOWRIMO was yesterday and I logged 7,807 words in Wyetgerd's Ax, my latest heroic fantasy. Since I'm just starting out this novel, I was very happy with yesterday's production. I'd love to get 10k today, but I am transitioning into the 2nd act of the story which sometimes is difficult. We shall see.


If you haven't read the first four chapters of The Bastard's Refuge yet, hop on over to Instafreebie. If you're into heroic fantasy, this book is right up your alley.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


NANOWRIMO is upon us. If you've never heard of that, it's the time of year where many writers try to crank out an entire book in one month. 

I'm game ;-)

I finished the first draft of The Prodigal Girl (Greg Owen #3) yesterday. That book drops very soon on Amazon.

I'll divide my time this month editing TPG and working on a new heroic fantasy novel. This one is (tentatively) called WYETGERD'S AX. It has series potential, but I'm not getting ahead of myself. I'm focused solely on making it into the best book I can and telling a complete story.

So that's the plan for NANOWRIMO 2017. Edit and release TPG. Get a first draft of WYETGERD'S AX done, which I think will be between 90k and 100k words.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Greg Owen #3 - The Prodigal Girl

This morning I begin work on the third mystery in the Greg Owen series, this one’s called The Prodigal Girl.

I’m keeping all plot details to myself, because I consider just about everything that happens in the book to be a spoiler.

The Greg Owen novels tend to run 60K and this one will be no different. I’ve got a high-level outline prepared and am feeling good about the story and character arcs.

I think I can write the first draft in 7 days.

Now that goal comes with a caveat. I have jury duty on Thursday. Because of my legal background, one or both attorneys on the case will want me nowhere near the jury box, so it's unlikely I'll get selected. But still, I will probably spend a chunk of the day Thursday at the courthouse, during the time I would otherwise be working. In the unlikely event I am selected for jury duty, then my goal of writing this book in 7 days goes completely out the window.

Either way, I’m off to the races again. It took me 3 weeks to write (not edit) a fantasy novel, so you might be wondering why I think I can write a Greg Owen book in 1 week. Here are some reasons why it’s do-able:
  1. I don’t have to create a whole new universe. Greg Owen’s stories take place in a world that’s exactly like ours. No magic, no strange creatures, no people/clans/lands/religions, nothing like that I have to give serious thought to and invent myself. He owns a pool hall, has a daughter, and is trying to make a living in a real-world setting. All things I can relate to.
  2. This book will be half as long as The Bastard’s Refuge (TBR).
  3. I’ve written a ton of mysteries already, so I understand the formula on a more intuitive level. TBR was my first heroic fantasy novel.
  4. I know who Greg is. I know who the supporting characters are. With TBR, I had a general sense of the characters before I sat down to write but the first draft was as much about discovering who they were and what they would do as it was telling the story.
  5. The Prodigal Girl is already up for pre-order! Now if that’s not reason enough …

Time to get cracking.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Latest Insane Idea

Halloween is one of my favorite days of the year. It carries none of the sentiment other holidays do. People get to act wacky and break from the routine of being their "normal self" for the day. That character from that movie I've always loved? Tonight I get to pretend I'm them for a few hours. It's a lot of fun. And I love a good scary movie too, though good scary movies are difficult to find.

Anyway, I'm toying with the idea to write a horror novella and release it on Halloween.

Yes, today is October 20th and I have not written a word of it, nor do I even have an idea of what it would be about, so it's an absolutely, utterly ridiculous idea.

But, ohhhhhh, is it tempting.

I love giving myself random challenges like this. And in this new world of indie publishing, I could do it too. It's possible to write, edit and release a novella in 11 days on Amazon.

Could I do it?

I think so.

Should I?

That's another question, with probably a different answer. Or at least, a much more nuanced answer.

Going to give this a lot of thought today ...

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Off-Topic: Sixers Fans Need To Chill Out About Markelle Fultz

76ers fans, I'm here to tell you that Markelle Fultz will grow into a good NBA player and it's WAAAAYYYYYYYYYY too early to worry about him.

Here are three reasons why you should not be worried.

  1. It's the NBA. Fultz is only 19 years old. All rookies experience an adjustment period where they learn the significant differences between the college and pro games. Fultz missed a chunk of Summer League due to injury and then missed half the preseason due to injury. Like all other rookies everywhere, he just needs time and reps. Do not make the mistake of comparing his rookie campaign to that of Simmons or Embiid, both of whom got to sit out for 1 and 2 years respectively and study the game, before lacing them up.
  2. He's changed his shooting form. I don't know whose idea this was, but if I was the shooting coach of the 76ers (Brian Colangelo, please give me serious consideration for that role if you need somebody.) I would NEVER have tweaked Fultz's form. He shot at a 41% clip from deep in college! With all the open looks he will get on this team, due to Embiid's ability to warp time and space on the court and courtesy of Simmons's uncanny vision, Fultz can thrive in this environment. Admittedly (and oddly) Fultz was a below average free throw shooter in college, so perhaps that's why he/they/someone getting paid a lot more money than me thought this was a good idea, but rather than tinker with a form that is good deep and fundamentally change the way he shoots, why not just see if his foul shooting improves over time? Even if he's only a 70% - 75% free throw shooter, that's okay on this team. Redick and Embiid are both great from the charity stripe and we've got other good foul shooters that can come off the bench if the other team employs the Hack-a-Shaq style at the end of the fourth quarter in a close game.
  3. He's playing off the ball now. In college, Fultz was the guy with the ball in his hands. He created scoring opportunities for himself with his change of pace, herky-jerky style of movement. Now he's on a team where he's not the primary ball handler and has to find scoring opportunities while moving off the ball. That means learning how to run off screens like it's a track meet and also learning how to catch and shoot. Yes, Fultz was always a scorer, but this is a different kind of scoring, a different way of literally thinking about the game and seeing the floor. It requires a change in mindset and habit, and a trust in his teammates that they will get him the ball to score. All of these things take time. (If somebody asked me to write a romance novel, for instance, I could get it done but it wouldn't be on par with my other work.)
(Speaking of which, if anybody out there wants to give me a six-figure advance to write a romance novel, here's my email address: 

If Fultz were facing only one of these challenges, it would be reason enough not to get alarmed by his (extremely limited) play so far. But Fultz is facing all three, at the same time. Adjusting to the NBA game while changing his shooting form and learning how to play off the ball? Frankly it's amazing he's played as well as he has.

Give him some time! One day Fultz could be the 2nd option on this team, maybe even the 1st. Only time will tell. Until then, trust the process. If Embiid stays healthy and the kids learn to play together, the 76ers make the playoffs this year and, in a diluted Eastern Conference, might make some noise when they get there.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What now?

Over the past month I've built up a lot of writing momentum. Writing is inertial, so rather than take some time off I've decided to pivot immediately to something else.

I've mentioned this before, but earlier this year I wrote a psy thriller, The Young Woman Next Door, that I wasn't crazy about. While working on The Bastard's Refuge, a few ideas came to me that would make the psy thriller so, so much better. So that's what I'll be working on this week. The changes will only require a few days to make. If I keep pushing, The Young Woman Next Door should be ready to launch in November.

I also want to finish book 3 in the Greg Owen series, this one's called The Prodigal Girl. I just put it up for pre-order on Amazon. Here's the cover:

I don't want to give any details away about the plot, because EVERYTHING is a spoiler.

Last but not least, I'm exploring marketing options for The Bastard's Refuge. I want to launch that story in November but I need to build some anticipation for it before I do. I've got a few different ideas ;-)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

HF Novel Update 10/14/17 (Day 28)

Editing Time: Zilch.

Didn't get to the book yesterday and that was probably a good thing. When I woke up this morning, I thought of a couple tiny things I wanted to tweak, but those can wait till after the proofing is done. These are really minor, minor changes, ones that don't significantly impact the story. As in, ADD THIS ONE THOUGHT HERE and OVER THERE.

But honestly, I could publish the story without making those changes. Between now and when I release, I'll continue to get ideas about how to "improve" the book but I know from past experience that this will happen no matter what. It doesn't mean these things must be done to make the story "perfect." Hell, I still think about how I should have done XXX in the 2nd book in my paranormal thriller series, and that story has been out for 3 years now and it's doing just fine.

Any more changes I want to make at this point to The Bastard's Refuge are probably just my subconscious's way of stalling.

So with that said, the book is effectively done.

I failed in my challenge. It took me 28 days instead of 21 to write a publishable book. Oh darn ;-)

It's funny when I look back at the first post I wrote about this challenge. It's either prophetic, or just a self-fulfilling prophecy. And I quote:

"So what if I fail?

If it takes me 28 days as opposed to 21, I'VE STILL WRITTEN AND EDITED A FULL LENGTH NOVEL IN A MONTH."

Maybe my brain knew all along I'd need a little bit longer with the book than I thought. When I set out, I was picturing a 90K story. The book grew into 110K.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

HF Novel Update 10/13/17 (Day 27)

Editing Time: 4 hours

I'm happy with where the manuscript is, though the story is wearing me out. I had planned on editing for 6 to 7 hours, but I just didn't "have it" yesterday.

Now this is where you might be thinking, "Evan, you should have set the MS aside and come back to it later. You've only edited for a week and you're already burned out!"

To which I would respond, "I always get burned out editing, even when I set the book aside for a month or longer. And by quick check, I've spent ~50 hours editing this mofo. I suspect that, no matter when the editing happened, I'd be burned out after 50 hours of it."

Today I won't get much time to edit but that's okay. To borrow an artist's expression, I feel I'm tickling the story at this point. So I'm ready to step away from the book and fire it off to the proofreader. I don't want to look at this story again till I hit PUBLISH next month.

Because this is a new genre for me and I'm releasing it under my real name (which has no other writing credits on Amazon), I do need to do a ton of marketing before the book launches. I'm considering trying Instafreebie for the next 30 days to build up some anticipation for the release. After the launch, I'll try some ads as well.

That's all for now.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Coming Next Month

HF Novel Update 10/12/17 (Day 26)

Editing Time: 5 hours

I was hoping to get more work done yesterday, but I crashed "early" last night. Cumulative fatigue. I've been burning the candle at both ends, staying up way too late after the kiddies go to bed to get work done. So last night I punched out at 10:30.

Through the weekend I'll work my way through the manuscript again. At this point the story is right, everything is where it needs to go, and the characters are fleshed out. My goal on this pass is to fine-tune the language and cut out the fat, hopefully turning a 114K manuscript into a 100K - 105K novel.

Later today I'll post the cover ;-)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

HF Novel Update 10/11/17 (Day 25)

Editing Time: 6 hours

I didn't get through a huge chunk of the story yesterday, but the edits were quality. Several paragraphs were simply tossed out. In many places, five or six sentences became three or four, with the ideas expressed much more clearly and powerfully. All good stuff.

Today I have a couple rewrites then will finish the "3rd" draft. For the next three days (Day 26 - 28), I'll go through the book one more time from beginning to end and tighten things up as best I can. I'm also considering getting a proofreader. The Bastard's Refuge is almost twice as long as the other books I've written, so I suspect I'm missing twice as many errors.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

HF Novel Update 10/10/17 (Day 24)

Editing time: 6.5 hours

I'm mostly through the story for the third time now. Smoothing out some of the rough edges, catching continuity errors, and cutting anything that disrupts the flow of the story. I keep saying it, but this book is close.

On target for having a publishable draft by Day 28.

The cover art should be done today. As soon as I have it, I'll do another quick post where I share it. Very excited.

I am thinking about making the book available for pre-order on Amazon, with a release date right around Halloween. This is strictly for marketing purposes, not to give myself more time to polish the manuscript. I've never released a fantasy novel before and I'm doing it under my real name, so I need to build some awareness before the book goes live. I'll do that mostly through social media and maybe targeted ads as well.

Monday, October 9, 2017

HF Novel Update 10/9/17 - (Day 23)

Editing Time: 6.5 hours

Total Word Count: 113,470

This book is coming along. I’m in that weird creative space right now where I fluctuate between thinking it’s awesome and terrible. The truth lies somewhere in between (and hopefully more toward the awesome side).

I spent a lot of time editing today. Every time I cut out some of the fat, though, I find a stretch that needs a little more. Clarity around a character’s motivation. Description so the reader isn’t just picturing a couple talking heads in space. Oh yeah, THIS happens later so I need to foreshadow that a little better HERE. Oh wait, this character hasn’t shown up in 75 pages so I need to remind the reader they exist so they care about him/her.

So, it’s going. Like I said, every time I cut words I find something else to add. That's why the Total Word Count is hovering right around 113K. I had expected the book to be shorter, but it’s looking more and more like it will be around this length. 

I would LOVE to find ways to get it down to 100K – 105K because there is a part of me that thinks fantasy readers would appreciate a “shorter” read than usual. No 750 page door-stopper that’s the first in a series of undefined length. I might be way off in that belief, but there’s only one way to find out.

I’ve decided to publish this book under my real name. The cover art will be finalized in a day or so, though I still don’t have a good Series Title yet. Titles are hard.

That’s all for tonight. Go Sixers.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

HF Novel Update 10/8/17 (Day 22)

Didn't get to the book today. Reality happened.

Deo volente, I will edit for an hour tonight.


While passing the time doing chores, I thought a lot about the psy thriller I'm reworking as well as another one. And then an idea for the third book Greg Owen book came to me too. This always happens. My brain is like that airport in Die Hard 2. All the ideas are circling overhead, dangerously low on fuel and impatiently waiting their turn to land before they crash and burn. I can't bring them in fast enough. If only I had a proverbial John McClane to (SPOILER ALERT FOR A 27 YEAR OLD MOVIE) light up the runway for me using a lighter and airplane fuel.

This is not to say all these ideas are good ones. A few won't get past the initial holy-crap-this-is-awesome stage, and a few won't get past the outline stage. That's how it seems to go for me. With all that being said, I've never understood when other writers complain about not having any ideas. I have the opposite problem. My brain looks for ways to turn everything into a story.

As I was watching Bladerunner 2049 this weekend, I thought, Wouldn't it be a cool story if a guy made a perfect copy of himself so he could observe and see himself as others do? Then he would be able to notice and improve all his flaws ... but what if he couldn't deal with watching himself. And what if the copy couldn't deal with Prime Guy watching him all the time either? After a while, all they both see are the flaws and they become totally depressed. Prime Guy realizes that it's better to have a partly-delude sense of self and Copy doesn't want to be like Prime Guy ...


Saturday, October 7, 2017

HF Novel Update 10/7/17 (Day 21)

Editing Time: 4 hours
Total Word Count: 112,624

I can feel work beginning to slow on this book now. The second draft is done. Now I'm going to spend a few hours each day and whittle away. My goal is to have something publishable in a week. I think that's do-able.

Working title: The Bastard's Refuge
Series title: Dunno
Author Name: Still not sure

HF Novel Update 10/6/17 (Day 20)

Editing Time: 6 hours
Total Word Count: 111,414

Yesterday was a productive editing day. The total word count keeps going up, which I did not expect, but I'm finding out that I don't have to cut as much story as I thought and the tweaks I wanted to make required more story. My best guess now is that I'll have a second draft that comes in around 115k.

At that point the story will be "right" and I'll start polishing. With a manuscript that long, I'm sure I can chop out 10k. Maybe even 15k. What I've found over the years is I tend to overwrite, sometimes by a wide margin. Figuring out how to reduce a six sentence paragraph into four sentences or shortening a 25 word sentence into a 15 word sentence almost always improves my story. Or just remembering that Character A's motivation was already made clear in the last chapter, and I don't need to take a paragraph to remind readers here.

That's just how I work. One day I hope I can write more cleanly, but isn't that every writer's dream?


10/7/17 marks Day 21 of the challenge. My original goal was to be done today, but that's not going to happen. I still have story to add and then I'll be at the point where I'm analyzing every word and trying to tighten the prose up. After a while (or pretty quickly, depending on how cynical I'm feeling) the law of diminishing returns rears its ugly head. I could spend weeks, if not months, tinkering with a story but I wouldn't significantly improve it in ways that readers are going to notice.

So gazing into my crystal ball, I think it will take me another week to truly finish the book. That means I should be ready to publish by 10/14/17, or Day 28, of the challenge.

I love failing when it means I've written in a book, especially one this long, in a lunar cycle.


In other news, I am wrestling with the idea of publishing this book under my real name. I don't want to start another pen name (because it's a pain in the arse) and readers have come to expect a certain type of book from Evan Ronan. I'm not sure my thriller / mystery readers will be interested in sword and sorcery for the most part, so from a branding and marketing perspective it might make sense to have a clear separation.

Not sure yet.

Working title: The Bastard's Refuge

Thursday, October 5, 2017

HF Novel Update 10/4 and 10/5 (Days 18 and 19)

Editing Time: 10 hours
Total Word Count: 107,037

10/4 Update -

Yesterday I only edited for a couple hours. What I realized, going into the editing phase, is that I don't have a specific plan. I know there are about 11 big ticket items that need to be fixed from a story perspective, but rather than attack them one by one, which would require jumping all over the place to different parts of the manuscript, I just started reading the book from the beginning. Got about 50 pages through, fixing typos and the big picture stuff as I came across it. It was slow-going. Real slow. I realized that my brain needed a break from the story. So I switched gears and went back to tinkering with a psy thriller I've decided to fix and publish.

10/5 Update -

Already got 5 hours of work in as I'm writing this and plan to do another 3 hours after the kiddies go to bed. It was a wise decision to take a break yesterday from this story. (Sometimes I get it right!) I was really fresh today and the editing hummed along. I've gotten to about the halfway mark of the story. The prose still needs tightening up in many places, but I'm saving that for my next pass. The big picture stuff (oh yeah, the characters decided to do THIS instead of THAT) is more important than the prose in this stage of the process. And, arguably, in every stage of the process.


Editing is a strange thing. I both love and hate it. When I'm thinking about it and not actually doing it, editing seems incredibly daunting. The internal monologue goes like this: Oh, right, I have to fix that. And then that. Oh crap, there's also that other thing in Chapter 5. And this. And that. And I should really go back and add this. AND CUT THAT OVER THERE! And I just got another idea! The last line of the book should be "X, Y, and Z." And this over here ...

When I'm not actually editing and only thinking about all the things I have to do, my mind is focused on what's wrong with the story, instead of what's right. It also feels like I have to fix a million things and it's going to take forever. The To Do List continues to grow in my mind till it feels like the book will never be finished, or finished satisfactorily. It skews my perspective and so it should come as no surprise that I get incredibly down on the book.

But then I stop thinking about editing and start actually doing it. And suddenly my perspective changes like somebody flipped a switch inside my brain.

This morning before I started, I thought, "This book needs so much work! I have to change almost everything!"

But then after I got to work, I thought, "The beginning is actually pretty good. So is the transition to the 2nd act. And the fixes have been relatively easy, most of them quick and painless."

Sometimes I think the hardest part of being a writer is just figuring out when to listen to your internal voice and when not to.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

What slowed me down during the writing process?

For the last 19 days now, I've been full steam ahead on a heroic fantasy novel. As mentioned in yesterday's post, I finished the first draft yesterday. Very pleased with the quick turnaround.

I had planned on getting back to the book last night to begin editing. That didn't happen. After 18 days of living, breathing, and working my way through the story, my brain needed a rest from it. I left myself plenty of notes, maybe 10 to 11 big ticket items that need fixing or tweaking. I'll start on those later today.

One of my goals during this process was to document things that slowed me down. After writing a 105k first draft in 18 days, I honestly don't know if I could have gone significantly faster than I did unless I started using speech recognition software. (I've given this some thought in the past.) But here are some things that slowed me down, some of which I had planned for, others which I didn't anticipate.

  1. Names. I knew going in that names would slow me down. God, I hate names. They're like that annoying kid who watches everybody play video games and points out what they're doing wrong, but who will never pick up the controller themselves because they have no hand-eye coordination. I'm not sure that's exactly on point, but come on, you know what I'm talking about. It's not just names of people that slow me down, it's also names of places, of buildings, of religious sects, of lands, or parts of lands, of peoples, of rivers, of mountains, etc. You get the idea. There is nothing worse than being in the flow of a story and getting snagged on something that's, IMHO, relatively unimportant such as a name. I could call the main character Eddie or I could call him Stan ... hmm, let me think about that for 20 minutes while I'm busy losing my train of thought and not writing the story, and oh yeah, readers won't care what the person's name is if they like him. It's frustrating. I'm in the middle of writing a great scene where two characters are arguing and a new, third character comes in to interrupt them and ... oh shit, what's his/her name ... I don't know ... it can't sound like any other names in the story or readers will get confused ... well, what are they like ... what were their parents like to give them their name ... oh hell what was the next line of dialog going to be? To somewhat alleviate this problem, I used free online random name generators BEFORE I started writing the book so I had names for the principal people, places, and things ready to go. There are a ton of these free resources out there on the interwebs. I rarely use exactly what the generator spits out, but I will combine elements of different things the generator(s) give me.
  2. Descriptions. What does the Abbey of Bronze look like? Beats me. It's an Abbey that's nestled among a snow-capped mountain range. That was all I knew going into this story and all I could think of while writing it. Same went for Shadowkeep, the ancient ruin of a castle buried deep within the Kirc Woodland. The keep should be awesome to behold, imposing, and slightly alien to the characters, as if some advanced race built it thousands of years ago and then disappeared. Other than that? I had no clue what it looked like. Same goes for people. He looks like Gary Oldman in such and such movie. I don't have a great solution for this general problem of descriptions. That's one of those things I leave for the "second draft" or editing stage. Fill in a little detail over here, and oh yeah, during the big battle at the end THIS HAPPENS, so Shadowkeep needs to have a THIS AND THAT. Again, I hate getting bogged down by description, especially when the setting of a particular scene is not vital to a story. If I were to write, "The detective walked into the hospital ..." you already have an idea in your head of what it looks like. I don't really need to tell you. But if there's a murder attempt at the hospital, you would need to know that "after hours, the nurse's station was the only space lit on the entire floor, and the detective couldn't see into his client's room when he stepped off the elevator ..." 
  3. WAIT! I GOT A NEW IDEA! Sometimes you get ideas that diverge from, or conflict with, the outline. More often than not, these new ideas are better than what you had originally planned to happen in the story. The problem? You don't always know if it's going to work until you've committed to the idea, and then you have to make adjustments to your outline and keep changing things that happen before and after and all of a sudden you've gone down a rabbit hole and sometimes, albeit rarely, you realize the new idea isn't going to work. That happened to me in this book once. Not sure what the solution is here.
  4. Fatigue. I'm not talking mental fatigue, though there is obviously that to deal with when you're grinding away at a story at a pretty fast clip. I'm talking pure physical fatigue. When I write more than a couple hours per day, my typing quality begins to deteriorate. As in, it basically falls of a cliff. There is a typo in almost every sentence, if not more than one, and I see these as I'm writing and so I go back and fix them as quickly as possible because I don't want to lose my train of thought. On those long days where it's ass-in-chair for five or six hours, my fingers are no longer at their peak and I'm missing keys as I'm typing.
That's all I can think of now. More to come on the editing front, which begins today. Stay tuned.


To give myself a break last night, I revisited a psychological thriller I'd written earlier this year but shelved because I wasn't thrilled with the end product. It was a nice change of pace and got my mind thinking creatively in different ways. And something really cool happened--I think I figured out how to make this book better and worthy of publication. It involves some rewrites and probably the addition of 5k - 10k words, but I think I can do it quickly. I had written this book off but now I'm chomping at the bit to fix it.

Working title: The Young Woman Next Door

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

HF Novel Update - 10/3/17 (Day 17)

And that's a wrap on the first draft. I can't believe it! This morning, another idea came to me for one of the characters I was thinking about cutting from the story. I can now keep him because I have something important for him to do at the end. So I need him to pop up in a couple more places earlier in the book and then come back in close to the climax. It should work.

Drafting: 3 hours
Daily Word Count*: ~5,000
Total Word Count*: 105,815

* Before I wrote this post, I started cutting scenes I knew had to go, so today's word count is an approximation. If you were to do the math, today's numbers and yesterday's numbers won't jive. If that upsets you, please email me at

I'm excited to be done but still have a lot of work to do on the story. One or two characters need to come out, and I'm not sure if I can keep the epilogue or if it has to be moved into Book 2. But the good news is, I have a pretty good idea what needs to be fixed. At this point, I don't think I'll have this monster edited in 4 days, but I'll give it a go and see what happens. Like I said before, I won't be upset if I "fail" to write and edit my first heroic fantasy novel in 21 days. If it takes a few days or even a week longer than expected, I'll count that as a win.

Going to take a break from this story for now but plan to come back tonight and start editing. I want to test my theory that editing can be done right away AND might even be easier and produce a better quality product if it's done right away.

Monday, October 2, 2017

HF Novel Update 10/2/17 (Day 16)

Here are the numbers for all you folks playing along.

Drafting: 6 hours
Daily Word Count: 11,612
Total Word Count: 102,291

I didn't finish the novel tonight. All I have left to write is the final battle scene, which should be no more than 3k - 5k. Too tired to write anything else tonight.

Peace out, girl scouts.

HF Novel Update 10/1/17 (Day 15)

No time carved out to write yesterday, so didn't get started till 9pm last night. Worked till I fell asleep.

Drafting: 2.5 hours
Daily Word Count: 3,365
Total Word Count: 90,679

Of course I wish I got more done this weekend but with a lot of life happening and no specific time carved out to work, I did manage almost 5k in two days. That's nothing to scoff at.

I think I've got another ~10k to go, which would bring the book in at a good length for this genre. So it's once more into the breach, dear friends. With a big push I think I can finish the first draft tonight.

In terms of next steps, a few scenes have to come out, but a few scenes have to be added, which will include a nice new conflict, so it will all likely even out. After those cuts and additions, copy editing might bring me down another 3k - 5k words. I enjoy this part of the process because I know the story forwards and backwards and can whittle away unnecessary plot points and characters.

If I do a find on the word "just" and cut that out wherever possible, I'll probably trim 1k words.

I just can't stop using the word just. It's just so difficult.

The book will run short compared to Game of Thrones and other similar stories, but it's not significantly shorter. Plus, as I'm new to this genre, I think readers will be more likely to give Evan Ronan a try if the first book isn't a door stopper.

Working Title: The Bastard's Refuge


While writing this book, I got an idea for a psychological thriller. (I know, right? Why can't I just stick to one thing?)

The psy thriller combines a lot of popular elements today: do you really know the people living next door? past trauma, strong female lead overcoming fears, danger to children, etc. I might blog about that one too as I write it. Not sure right now if that's the next book I write. I should probably get to work on Greg Owen #3. The first in that series is doing really well on Amazon (knock on wood) and the second is up for pre-order. I'd love to build that funnel of books out, so readers can read one, pre-order the next, read that one, pre-order the next, etc.

It would be nice to get both of the psy thriller and Greg Owen #3 done in October.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

My Ken Bruen Fanboy Moment

I love getting emails from readers. I answer each one. Always.

I think most writers feel and operate the same way. We spend so much time working in the proverbial dark, by ourselves, some of the time wondering if the story we're working on is any good, often thinking it's garbage. Then we publish and cross our fingers and wait for reviews. Percentage-wise, very few readers take the time to leave reviews. I understand why. They don't read books so they can then carve time out of their busy lives to leave reviews, which take time and thought. Readers just want to find the next book.

If the percentage of readers who leave reviews is 1%, then the percentage of readers who contact authors directly is even smaller. Maybe 10% of that 1%. At least that's been my experience. The mega bestselling authors almost definitely have a different experience. But still, when a reader email  comes through, I'm always excited and happy to respond.

Long before I was a writer, I was a voracious reader. These days I don't read as much as I'd like because I'm, you know, writing in my spare time. But at heart I'm still a reader and always will be.

Like other readers, I rarely review. These days, I only leave reviews or blog about things I enjoy (might do another blog post on why that is). Even more rarely do I email authors directly. I've heard horror stories about SO-AND-SO being really rude to readers and BIG NAME WRITER being a dickhead, and I don't understand that. Readers are our customers. There is nothing more loyal than a happy reader. If they take the time to email, I should take the time to respond, even if it's only a hi-nice to hear from you-this and that-have to get back to work-hope you enjoy the next story.

Anyway, this is a long wind-up to sharing my experience with Ken Bruen.

This was a year or so ago. At the time I was kind of drifting as a writer. I'd tried doing books under a different pen name to chase a trend and saw some success with that, but I felt like I wasn't writing the kind of stories I was really passionate about. I had just read one of Ken's Guard books (seriously, pick one up if you haven't already), and was so taken by Ken's poetic, punchy style of writing that I felt recharged as a writer. Here was a guy who wrote with style, who wrote noir, who could make you laugh and make you think. He wrote books for adults. No superheroes, literal or figurative here. His books are such a joy to read.

So I emailed to tell him all that. I knew he was hard at work on the next book and didn't expect a response.

Of course he got back to me the same day. He was touched by my compliments and wished me success in my own writing, even asking what my pen name was and where he could find my books. I had reached out to thank him for writing such great stories, telling him that he had shown me what was possible with prose and narrative in a mystery/thriller book, and he turned it right back around to support me.


Ken Bruen has written many books, all of which I'd recommend. My personal favorite are his Guard series, featuring protag Jack Taylor. He's an ex Irish cop who was kicked unceremoniously off the force (for doing the right thing, naturally) and now finds work as an unlicensed private eye. Bruen's prose is a thing to behold. Spare, punchy, cutting, and insightful. He writes great books that one inhales as opposed to reads.

They've also made a TV series out of the Guard books, starring Game of Thrones's Iain Glen in the title role. Glen is fantastic as Taylor, a hard-drinking wreck of a man with an ear for poetry, a tendency to self-destruction, but ultimately a strong sense of right and wrong. The TV series has a different feel than the books, but both are excellent. Last I checked, this show was available on Netflix. Give it a try, you won't regret it.


And if you're hesitating to email your favorite author, don't. Most of us love hearing from readers and will respond.

HF Novel Update - 9/30/17 (Day 14)

Life happened yesterday. Needless to say I didn't get much done. Here are the numbers:

Drafting: 1 hour
Daily Word Count: 1,128
Total Word Count: 87,314

Today's productivity is anybody's guess. I have no specific time blocked out to write and a lot of things to do with the family and around the house. I might not be able to write until later tonight and then would only have a few hours to work.

The good news? The ending is close. I know what happens and mostly how it has to happen, so I'm not stopping to think much as I work. I'm just in the flow now. 

The even better news? Just because I couldn't write yesterday didn't mean I wasn't able to think about the story. And a funny thing happened ... there was a plot thread I had started earlier in the book but had forgotten/never bothered to pick up. I was thinking about scrapping it during the editing phase. But just as a thought experiment, I decided to play the what-if game. (I talk to myself a lot.) 

Soooo while in the shower (again, why do ideas always come to you in random places?) I thought of a way to pick that thread up. By doing so, I'm able to up the stakes for everybody, add a dimension to one of the main characters, add more conflict between the different good guys in the book, and turn one of the heroic fantasy tropes on its head. 

Now this means some teeny, tiny revisions have to be made earlier in the story, but I think those will take me no longer than an hour or two max during the editing stage.

The opening pages of a book are the most fun to write, because the idea is still new and fresh and you've got a ton of energy about what you think could be the best book ever!!!!! But then you get deeper into the story, realize you have to change this, remove that, move this to earlier/later, wonder why this character is even in the book, begin to question whether the book is crap and why you thought it was such a good idea in the first place, etc.

The second most fun to write part of the book for me is the stretch between 85% to the end. Usually everything is figured out and based on what has already happened, the book almost HAS to go a certain way. You understand your characters and at this point you're sprinting downhill just to get everything on the page. That's where I am now.

Good times.

Friday, September 29, 2017

HF Novel Update - 9/29/17 (Day 13)

I'm very close to the end of this book and can see everything else that happens so at this point I'm almost on autopilot. What's strange is, I wrote a lot of words today (6,250) but now that feels like chump change because I'm comparing it to what I've done on other days this week. 6,000 plus words is really good and instead of feeling ho-hum about it (funny how quickly we get used to things), I should keep in mind the long game.

If I wrote 6,000 words a day, 5 days a week, that would be 1,560,000 words per year. Novel lengths vary by genre, but let's say on average my books will be 75,000 words long.

That's 21 novels a year, rounding up.

This weekend will prove challenging. I won't have any large blocks of time to work and pretty much will only be able to write after the kiddies go to bed. So I am not going in to the next 48 hours with any expectations. I hope I can write another 10k -15k over two days and finish the book off, but realistically the first draft won't be done until Monday night. That would only give me 6 days to edit my first heroic fantasy novel, which sounds really daunting.

But hey, I got myself into this mess so I can't really complain.

And tonight's winning numbers in the Pennsylvania Lottery are:

Drafting: 4.5 hours
Daily Word Count: 6,250
Total Word Count: 86,186

Thursday, September 28, 2017

HF Novel Update - 9/28/17 (Day 12)

Too tired to type much here, cumulative fatigue just catching up with me. I've been putting in a lot of hours, about 50% of them coming after the kiddies go to bed so I'm averaging about 5-6 hours of sleep per night. When I was in college that was par for the course, but these days that just ain't enough.

Here are the numbers:

Drafting: 6 hours
Daily Word Count: 9,900
Total Word Count: 79,936

I've got about 10k - 15k words left to write leading up to the climax, and the big finale itself will probably run about 5k. So this first draft is trending toward 100k, which is good. After a tight edit, I'll probably chop off about 5k, I'm guessing. I can already think of a couple things I planted earlier in the story that never came back up later (and I don't really need them to at this point).

Gentlemen, to bed! And sleep the sleep of a thousand martyrs!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

HF Novel Update 9/27/17 (Day 11)

Another huge day.

My good friend and fellow author Nate Green has a saying, "Writing is inertial."

Truer words were never spoken.

Today I wrote over 14k words! That's ridiculous but it didn't feel unusual to me while it was happening. It just flowed.

Here's why I think this happened. I've moved into the final third-ish of the book. The end of the dreaded 2nd act is close. Everything is coming together, and at this point I understand the characters much better than I did at the beginning of the story. I know what they're going to say and how they're going to react to situations without having to think about it too too much.

At the same time, I got to introduce two new characters who are a lot of fun to write and who added fresh conflicts to the story. So at this point, I can see the ending, I know how I'm going to get there, and all the characters in the story are on a collision course that will culminate in the climax. I feel like I've crested the hill of this story and now am running downhill as fast as I can, almost out of control. At this point I can't write quickly enough and, as long as I stay out of my own way, this first draft will be done very soon.

To my buddy Nate's point, WRITING IS INERTIAL.

The more you do it, the more you do it. The less you do it, the less you do it.

Now, that's an oversimplification of course. I don't know if I could maintain this pace for an extended period of time, though if you believe the stories this is what many pulp writers did in the early to mid 20th century. And I happen to know that many indie authors (who tend to be the more successful ones) do this as well. So it's been done before and it's still being done now.

Here are the numbers:

Drafting: 9 hours (three big chunks of writing time)
Daily Word Count: 14,029
Total Word Count: 70,036

New Thriller Coming This Week!

I talk about The Board, in my latest YouTube video. I'll hit publish on that book tonight, and then Amazon will do its thing behind the scenes, which usually takes a day or two before the book is live in their store.

Here's the cover for The Board:

Writing this book was such a great, fun experience for me, because I got to co-author the novel with Jim Gott, a good friend and former work colleague. The oh-my-god-why-isn't-this-already-a-movie premise was Jim's fabulous idea. It's high concept and we feel has the potential to really break out.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

HF Novel Update - 9/26/17

Monster day today.

After deciding to scrap PLOT DEVELOPMENT yesterday, I was freed up to get on with the story. I managed to write my way through two set pieces and am now halfway through the 2nd act of the story. Our hero has made some mistakes and has grown, and I just gave him his first mini-victory.

Now the story gets really interesting. We meet new characters and the overwhelming force of the enemy is closing in. Hero has to assume a larger and larger role among the people he's protecting, and I'm chomping at the bit to get to his Cave Moment, where he confronts a mythical monster. All of this is leading me to the end, which I can almost see now. I don't have all the details yet, but I can feel the general way to get there.

Here are the numbers:

Drafting: 6 hours
Daily Word Count: 9,007
Total Word Count: 56,007

Monday, September 25, 2017

HF Novel Update 9/25/17

So I ended up deciding to scrap PLOT DEVELOPMENT. After re-outlining the remainder of the book, I realized how much story there was left to tell and that PLOT DEVELOPMENT wasn't adding much, didn't factor as much into the larger story as I had previously thought, and was just slowing me down. Put another way, I'd invented a problem in the story that didn't need to be there.

The deadliest trap is the one we set for ourselves, as Raymond Chandler once quipped.

That being said, I had to spend a significant chunk of time figuring out what had to go earlier in the story, what had to be rewritten, and where I could pick up from. The numbers below are broad estimates of how I spent my time today in the overall creative process. They're probably not even close to matching the reality, because rewrites bled over into new content, which bled over back into outlining, which ... you get the idea.

And, because I was both cutting words and writing new ones today, I'm ballparking my daily word count. The total word count is an approximation also, because there are still things to fix, rearrange, and probably cut.

Okay, disclaimers out of the way, here are the numbers:

Pre-Production: 1 hour
Rewrites: 2 hours
Drafting: 2.5 hours
Daily Word Count: ~5,000
Total Word Count: ~47,000

HF Novel Update - 9/24/17

Yesterday I got some words in but I'm not sure I'll keep any of them.

As my characters headed to PLOT DEVELOPMENT, I began to question my decision to send them there. I felt the story was losing momentum and that I was also putting an unnecessary complication in front of them - since there was still plenty of story left to tell, jam-packed with more and more conflict.

Even worse? The obstacle they were about to face was shaping up to be very similar to the NEXT PLOT DEVELOPMENT, so everything ground to a halt as I struggled to come up with ways to make THIS THING different from THAT LATER THING.

I couldn't come up with a solution yesterday. After I woke up this morning, while engaged in some mindless activity (why does it always happen like this) I think I figured out what I'm going to do, and it will allow me to keep most of what I wrote yesterday but damn I hate this feeling. I'm getting to the dreaded halfway point of the story, that strange and daunting space where I know how I want the last quarter of the book to go but don't yet have all the answers for how I'm going to get there.

Here are the numbers. Hopefully I keep most of these words so the day isn't a total write-off.

Pre-Production: 0
Drafting: 3.5 hours
Daily Word Count: 4,636
Total Word Count: 42,007


When it felt like I was just spinning my wheels last night, I shifted gears to something else. Rather than just get frustrated without little to show for all the hair-pulling and teeth-gnashing, I focused on editing The Stalked Girl, the second book in my new mystery series. The great news? That one's ready to go now and I don't have to think about it. It's up for pre-order now on Zon.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

HF Novel Update - 9/23/17

The stars must have been in alignment yesterday ... or something.

Because it's the weekend and I have no specific time carved out for work, I did not give myself a word count goal yesterday (and won't today either). But I managed to write periodically throughout the day. It helped that the kids entertained themselves for two different long blocks of time. That doesn't always happen.

I've ended up building a lot of momentum with this story and now I'm trying to use that to my advantage. Nearing the halfway point of the novel, I've only got four or five major turns in the story left to figure out. A lot still has to happen, but the pacing of the book so far feels right so I can see this coming in around 90k. So far, I haven't been plagued by any big problems with the plot or characters. I will round them all out a little bit more during the editing because by then I'll understand the whole story much better.

Anyway, here are the updates for yesterday:

Pre-Production: 1 hour (while at the playground with the kiddies, I thought a lot about the scenes I wanted to write)
Drafting: 5 hours
Daily Word Count: 6,998
Total Word Count: 37,371

Friday, September 22, 2017

HF Novel Update - 9/22/17

Had a really productive day today and now am too tired to blog in detail about it.

September 22nd

Pre-Production: 0
Drafting: 6 hours
Daily Word Count: 10,135
Total Word Count: 30, 273

What slowed me down today? Nothing. If I had more time to write, I could have gotten more done. I'm well into the 2nd act of this story now. The hero has crossed the threshold. It will be difficult to get in a lot of words this weekend as I plan to spend my time with the fam. I would love to be at 40k come Monday, but that's probably not realistic. I'll take whatever I can get this weekend and then hit the ground running next week. Not sure I'll have any updates tomorrow or Sunday.


In other exciting news, The Dead Girl reached #26 on the free list for all Amazon today. Very excited about that. It switches back to paid tomorrow. I'm hoping readers like it and pre-order book 2 in that series.

HF Novel Update - 9/21/17

This is going to sound ridiculous, but I tried giving up caffeine and this affected my output. Normally I will get a couple thousand words after the kids go to bed, but last night I zonked out not long after they did so I lost some time to work.

I might get back on the caffeine. Probably wasn't the smartest idea to try to give it up while in the midst of a 21 day novel challenge on my first heroic fantasy. Ah well.

September 21st

Pre-Production: 0
Drafting: 3.5 hours
Daily Word Count: 5,121
Total Word Count: 20,138

What slowed me down? I wrote a surprise attack scene and an escape scene today, which you would think should go really fast. These two events are the end of the 1st act, serving as a major turning point. Loads of action here, lots of characters, opportunities for great dialog, this should have been easy writing. But it wasn't.

Here's why I think I struggled. I had a general idea about I wanted to happen in the story: Hero joins the battle, Hero kills a few bad guys, Hero finds and rescues the children, Hero flees to safety. It's a pretty basic formula with each beat leading to the next naturally. But then the million little questions started popping up.

How much time should Hero be in the midst of battle?
Should he kill anybody?
How do I get Hero and Wizard to meet, without either one ending up dead?
What is everybody else doing?
Can I introduce 2 or 3 new characters during a battle?

Again, I'm not sure I could have anticipated every single question that would arise but probably a little more planning on my part would have reduced them.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

HF Novel Update 9/20/17

I had one of those unusual days where I didn't expect to get much done, but ended up getting a ton of words. Funny how expectations work sometimes.

The same thing happens to me at the gym. There are mornings where I feel awful, run-down, and weak, but I go in anyway because I can only get there at certain times and on certain days. And you know what happens sometimes? Those why-the-hell-am-I-even-here days end up being my best ones. I PR'ed on my deadlift a couple months back on such a day, where I was stiff as hell and exhausted just from walking into the gym.

The opposite also happens too. There are days I get into the weight room, just raring to go, feeling like a forklift, but then ... I can barely bench what was easy last year.

Bottom line? Expectations aren't very accurate. Your worst days can actually be your best days, and vice versa. So maybe the lesson here is just to ignore how you're feeling and just see how you perform. This is not to say you should try to squat when your knee is aching in a strange way and it feels like your ACL is about to pop. Or to try getting 10,000 words in when you've got a 103 degree fever. This is only to say, don't let your expectations dictate what actually happens, because they're often way, way off.

Anyway, here's today's update:

September 20th

Pre-Production: 30 min
Drafting: 5.5 hours
Daily Word Count: 7,337
Total Word Count: 15,017

What slowed me down? Nothing seemed to slow me down today. Though my productivity after the kids went to bed was miniscule compared to earlier in the day. That comes as no shock. But like I said above, I went into today with low expectations and ended up killing it. I'm tempted to lower my expectations tomorrow and see what happens, but I also want to be careful there. I do have a word count I want to hit and I fear if I create a habit of lowering expectations, then subconsciously I'll start telling myself it's alright if I slack off. We shall see.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Heroic Fantasy Novel Update

As mentioned in yesterday's blog, I'm challenging myself to write AND edit a 90k - 100k historical fantasy novel in 21 days. Yes, this is unreasonable. But to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, only unreasonable people can change the world.

September 18th

  • Outline for 3 hours
  • Pre-Production for 2 hours
  • What slowed me down today? Editing two other books. No cure for that, shit's gotta get done. Hopefully this little experiment proves to me you can write and then edit what you wrote right away, so in the future there is no gap between the two processes.
September 19th
  • Pre-Production for 3 hours
  • Drafting for 5 hours
  • Daily Word Count: 7,680 words
  • Total Word Count: 7,680 words
  • What slowed me down today? World-building. What does the Abbey look like? What does the refectory inside the Abbey look like? What would they eat for dinner? What does the Mark of the Bull look like? Should it be a coin or should it be something else? Descriptions bog me down. What should the training room look like? How else could I describe the stone floor, other than "cold" and "hard"? The answers to these questions aren't life-and-death but they still need to be provided to the reader. Our characters can't go from "a room" to "another room." They also wear clothes. CLOTHES! Do the warrior-monks residing in the Abbey of Bronze wear habits? Or would they wear armor all the time?
  • How can I solve this problem? More pre-production next time. I will look ahead in my outline and try to better anticipate these issues. But I feel like these things will always come up. The goal is just to reduce the amount of them.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Can a book be written AND edited in 21 days?

I've written some books of my books in less than 21 days, then followed the conventional wisdom about setting them aside for a few months to gain some objectivity and distance from the material before editing.

And here's what happens when I do that--

That novel that took me only a couple weeks to write has now sat on its ass for months and the editing ends up taking foreverrrrrrrr .............. the book I just released, The Dead Girl, was written in March and now here we are, in the middle of September. Did sitting on the story for that long make it significantly better?

As the writer, I'm probably not in the best position to determine that but a big part of me has a sneaking suspicion that the answer is no. Or at least, the book isn't significantly better. Instead I could have finished writing The Dead Girl, then gone right back to page 1 to start editing. All those glaring typos, unconscious echoing (I've used the word "just" 15x on this page alone), word choice, continuity errors, etc, would probably have jumped off the page just as obviously.

What I have found is that waiting that long to edit a story TAKES ME OUT OF THE STORY. Yes, I have some distance but too much distance isn't a great thing. When I wait a couple months to edit, I'll get to, say, page 30 and then larger question pops up. It goes something like this with my internal monologue in italics:

There's a plot thread I wanted to work out here, but I don't remember if THIS and THAT happened later. Or did I decide NOT to do this and instead DID THAT OTHER THING?

Or did SOANDSO meet up and SAY THIS?

But wait, I did THIS THING OVER SOMEWHERE I think, and so do I really need THIS and THAT here?

When questions like this pop up and I don't know the answer right away, I'm no longer in editing mode. Now I'm in search mode and also in danger of entering the dreaded rewrite mode. I get bogged down and the editing grinds to a halt. If there are significant rewrites, then I feel like I need to set the rewrites aside for a period of time to gain distance and ... you get the idea.

I suspect these same larger questions would still arise if I edited right away. But I also think they'd be easier to answer:

Wait, didn't I want to ... oh no, that's right I did X, Y, and Z later in the book. Good to go.

Oh yeah, I wanted to change this. That means I have to tweak THIS, THAT, and THE OTHER THING OVER HERE. Okay, I can do that quickly.

I can't help but feel the process would become lightning quick if I started editing right away BECAUSE I'M STILL IN THE STORY. I'm much more likely to remember all the ins and outs, creative choices I made, and also much more likely to remember where these things are.

This is just a theory of course, a theory that flies in the face of conventional wisdom. But so-called conventional wisdom has been wrong before, and it will be wrong again, and I'm going to test my hypothesis on the heroic fantasy novel I'm working on right now.

I think I'll be doing a series of videos on this to chart my progress. Other authors have done 21 day challenges before so I can hardly claim to be the first, but I thought it might be helpful to share my process and discuss the things that slow me down with the goal of bringing these problems into the forefront of my consciousness so I can solve them. I'm not doing this because I think my writing process is more interesting than anybody else's. I'm doing this because I want to show other authors it's possible to write AND edit a book quickly, much more quickly than is commonly thought possible.

I outlined the story yesterday over the course of three hours, using the famous Disney memo about the Hero's Journey as a reference, and my goal is to write a 90k fantasy novel in two weeks and then turn right around and edit it in one week. I think this is doable. And the best part?

So what if I fail?

If it takes me 28 days as opposed to 21, I'VE STILL WRITTEN AND EDITED A FULL LENGTH NOVEL IN A MONTH.

If that's failure, I'll take failure every time.

Tomorrow I'll talk about some of the things I did to speed up the writing process before I got started. Maybe a video too. We shall see. I have a word count to hit ;-)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Insane 2017 Publishing Experiment Has Already Begun

Hey readers - Been a while since my last post, but I have a good excuse: I've spent a good chunk of my time actually writing. And you know what happened when I did that? I actually wrote some books.

Many, in fact.

As anybody who has tried to indie publish knows, it's getting more and more difficult to gain visibility on Amazon. To put that in laymen's terms, I simply mean it's getting harder to be noticed by readers.

Big name authors, i.e. those hard-working and fortunate enough to have gained a significant following already, are somewhat immune to this increasing difficulty as they have large readerships who are willing to purchase or borrow just about anything they put out. Think Stephen King and Lee Child. They can release a book per year and be just fine. Other big-time indie authors can do the same thing and still see significant sales.

As for the rest (most) of us ... well that just doesn't work. If you're lucky enough to score a breakout, record-smashing bestseller, then you can join the ranks of the elite on Mount Olympus and publish fairly infrequently. The chances of this happening to any author are about the same as winning the lottery.

It seems that Amazon's latest version of algorithms (how it directs readers to books, and how the website influences a reader's purchasing decisions) strongly favors new releases. This incentivizes writers, especially those looking to break through to the next level, to put out quality books as quickly as possible.

So that's my game plan for the rest of 2017. Write, edit, release, repeat. As quickly as possible. So that's why:

The latest Eddie McCloskey novel launched August 29th.

And one week later, the final comedic mystery, Not Safe for Work, in my Close of Business series was available too!

And in the next day or two, the first in my new amateur sleuth series will drop. Here's the cover:

The plan is to release several more novels this year and sprinkle short stories in between book launches. The goal is to utilize Amazon's algorithms to my advantage and increase my visibility. Fingers crossed this works, and I'll strive to send out periodic updates about my progress.