Kings of The Wyld and Bloody Rose: The Band Series Rocks

Kings of The Wyld and Bloody Rose: The Band Series Rocks

On a whim I picked up Nicholas Eames’s Kings of the Wyld and loved it. I devoured the book in under a week and immediately dove into its sequel Bloody Rose. It’s a good book, on par with Kings of the Wyld, but different in some meaningful ways. What really makes Bloody Rose impressive though, is how it improves and complicates the world that Eames introduces in Kings of the Wyld. Two books in and Eames’s Band series is already a roadmap for any writer looking to make a one and done story into an entertaining series.

In Kings of the Wyld mercenaries in the style of D&D adventurers, right down to classes like warriors, thieves and wizards, gather in ‘bands’ that have a distinct rock and roll vibe to them. (Sidebar, fantasy needs a new sub-genre for stories that are purposely playing with D&D and video games tropes, I’m thinking RPG-Fantasy? Something catchier?) The merging of rock and roll with epic fantasy drives the lion’s-share of the world building. There’s arena shows, bookers that get mercenaries gigs, when mercenaries head into the dangerous Heartwyld to go adventuring it’s called ‘touring’. There’s a big festival called the ‘War Fair’ where bands get drunk and party; you get it.

The story focuses on Saga, the greatest band of all time. Saga broke up decades ago and Golden Gabe, the band’s ‘Front-man’, needs to get the band back together for one last tour. He has to save his daughter who is trapped on the other side of the dangerous Heartwyld in a city under siege by a horde of monsters. It’s a compelling plot and Eames runs with it, combining his aging adventures with aging rockers to create a hilarious, bad ass adventure.

But the adventure ends. Rose is saved, there’s some foreshadowing of greater threats, but everything is neatly taken care and honestly, how long can you really stretch the whole ‘D&D characters are rock stars thing?’ Saga is a fun crew, but they’re also old and have other responsibilities. Can you really force the band back together for two more books? Wouldn’t you lose what made the first one so special if Clay Cooper had to leave his family behind two more times to save the world?

Eames smartly decides to leave Clay and the rest of Saga home for the sequel. Instead he focuses on a new band, ‘Fable’, led by Gabe’s daughter Rose. And he makes the ‘bard’, a joke role in his first book, into the lead for his second. Fable’s prospective character is Tam, a seventeen-year-old girl and huge Fable fan. While Tam is likable and pragmatic like Clay Cooper, the perspective character in Eames’s first book, she’s coming from a very different place and that allows us to see Eames’s world in a different light.

But it’s not just Tam, Eames smooths out the rough edges of his world building in the second book. Mercenaries are still rock and rollers, there’s still arena fights and even groupies and tour followers. Fable still gets drunk, has crazy sex and does drugs. But the rock and roll stuff fits neater into the world this time, it feels less like a clever joke and more like a thing of consequence.

There’s a seedy underbelly to the arena shows and the treatment of ‘monsters’. Eames grazes this in his first book, but really explores it in his second. Fable’s booker is a monster, they stay the night at Tree Ent’s place, there’s a much more complex situation going on. Tam starts to see the mercenary bands she idolized in a different light. In this way Eames leaves behind the rock and roll stuff when it doesn’t suit the world building and makes the connections when it does. This gives Bloody Rose a less manic and more disciplined vibe.

That’s not to say the world isn’t still a blast, full of crazy, weirdos and funny situations. There’s a Shaman that accidentally turns into a bear cub, a satyr that eats everything like a goat, a guy living with monsters who ties an extra pair of felt arms to himself to blend in. Moog, the impish wizard from the first book, shows up again to delight. It’s fun, but the world feels more introspective.

Part of that is the crew. Fable is younger and more damaged than Saga. Don’t get me wrong, Saga had its problems and arcs. I also absolutely loved Clay and his bandmates. But they were more established, their issues played for jokes at time. Rose and her team are younger and there is an insecurity to them that feels real.

Eames is more interested in exploring these characters than his world, but that’s for the better. He does good character work and while there is a touch of cliché to everyone in both Fable and Saga, they both raise above their tropes and become so endearing it’s hard to let them go by the end.

And let them go you must. Eames has a three book deal, but he says that each book will focus on a different band. While I’m sad to see Tam and her friends depart, I can’t wait to see how Eames’s world will continues to evolve. I also have no doubt that I will grow to love his final band as much as I loved the first two. If you’re looking for a fun fantasy world that isn’t afraid to grow and question its own conceits, then check out Kings of the Wyld and Bloody Rose

The Kingkiller Chronicle and the Problem of Pay Off

The Kingkiller Chronicle and the Problem of Pay Off

I’ve been listening to the audio-books of Patrick Rothfuss’s The Kingkiller Chronicle recently. The books have something of a ‘geek cool’ rep to them. When they first came out everyone from my favorite web comic to the dorm DM were gushing about them. And even close to ten years later I bump into people at writing groups, cons and parties that talk about The Kingkiller Chronicle the same way hipsters talk about obscure EPs.

Yet despite the rep and the fact that the book stars a fellow ginger, I simply couldn’t make it through the first one, The Name of the Wind. Even the audio book with its excellent narration was painful, I would find myself shouting at Kvothe to ‘Get on with it already!’ (My favorite parts were when Kvothe, after doing this rambling, overly clever description, say something like ‘but I’ll spare you the details.’ I would always mutter ‘thanks? But why this time? You certainly didn’t spare them anywhere else!?). The Kingkiller Chronicle is supposed to be a story told over the course of three days, but honestly Kvothe is such a blowhard that it feels like it takes three months.

The Kingkiller Chronicle has a novel framing story. Chronicler, a famous scholar and scribe, hunts down the legendary figure of Kvothe who is in retirement and running an inn with his otherworldly apprentice Bast. Kvothe agrees to tell Chronicler his whole story and help separate what is legend from what is truth. From there the majority of the novels are in first person with Kvothe telling his story, with interludes in the ‘present’ at the Waystone Inn.

Kvothe can be a trying storyteller. He often feels like someone’s overly designed RPG character. He’s a master musician, wizard (though magic doesn’t exist in this world! Though it also totally does), swordsmen and thief. He’s smart, cunning, handsome. He’s a mythical figure that everyone knows about, with thousand of tales that have been repeated over and over again all around the civilized world…and he’s also like under thirty, maybe not even twenty-five.

I’ve always found instant, ultra-competent characters annoying, even more so when they are ultra-competent teenagers, which Kvothe is for the first two books. On top of that he’s melodramatic and tragic when we meet him in ‘the present’ at the Waystone Inn. And none of his tragedy or his skill feels earned when he’s introduced. We’re told Kvothe’s a tragic legendary hero, not shown it. But that’s fine, because Kvothe is going to tell us his story and the truth behind his amazing legacy that everyone can’t stop talking about, the one he even quotes in detail as he begins his tale….

Expect he doesn’t.

The Kingkiller Chronicle’s true sin is one of pacing and pay off. Every event in Kvothe’s life seems to require a hundred pages of in depth detail to get through, even when they’re not that interesting, like the time Kvothe wandered around a fucking woods for months just feeling sad. By the time the first book ends, Kvothe has maybe done one or two things of note and none of the things he specifically talks about when he begins his tale. The second book is more interesting, but it’s still stuffed to the brim with words.

I don’t know how many times Kvothe talks about going over to Eolian to play music, or how many cute but platonic interactions he has with his love interest Denna, or how many times he talks about longing to play the fucking lute, but there are just strenuous pages of this stuff that builds to almost nothing. As someone who has also wrote a five hundred page fantasy novel that I’m sure seems like it goes on forever (Find out more here!), I have a hard time begrudging Rothfuss some of these asides. And I will admit the more I listened, the more I enjoyed Kvothe’s story, mostly because interesting things started happening in the second book, but it is still overrun with chaff.

At the end of one of Kvothe’s episodes (the story is at times very episodic), Kvothe stumbles upon Felurian. Felurian is a Faye creature and is equal parts seductive and frightening. Kvothe ends up in a dual of sorts with her and tricks her in a very folklore- style way. It works, and it’s over pretty quickly and I thought Rothfuss was finally picking up the pace. But then Kvothe stays in the Faye with Felurian for what feels like forever. Pages are spent taking about how he learned to kiss from her and how they wandered around naked. It stretches and stretches, finally something interesting happens again, but rather than having that propel Kvothe to his next adventure he spends some more time with Felurian recovering from the event. Chaff like this swipes the momentum of the story out at the knees.

Rothfuss writing often feels more indulgent than engaging, as if he left too many darlings alive on the page. But even so, I’m listening. I will download the next book whenever it’s finally released. The novel is frustrating because it has potential, not because it’s bad. Kvothe can be clever, some of the details of his world interesting. But Kvoethe should have learned more from those quiet Adem mercenaries than just fighting. As his friend Tempi said, ‘one word can say more than many’.

Ghets Chapter 3

Ghets Chapter 3

You can find Chapters 1 and 2 here


Chapter

Sir Markus started at the charred remains of Early Gregory’s Gate House. The damage looked no better in the daylight. He knelt to feel the soot between his fingers, to remind himself that yes, it had happened. Demons from the other side of the world had come and taken Princess Arilune, his love.

Markus winced at the thought of the Princess. He remembered lying next to her just the other night. Her deep green eyes, the bright freckles that dotted her face like a mask, her wild red hair. He remembered the feeling of Arilune’s slender shoulders against his chest, how they rose and fell with her faint breathing. He would stare at her, this perfect, blessed girl that somehow loved him. He always thought she would leave him, but he never considered that she would be stolen away.

The thought made Markus’s jaw clench and he kicked the burnt rubble around him. It had always been Markus’s duty to protect Arilune. Even before they met, Markus was a young palace guard, the lowliest knight in the kingdom having just earned his nobility thanks to his performance in the Westgate tourney and the patronage of his mentor, the Grand Sir Roland. Back then, Markus spent every day in heavy armor, silent and still in the royal audience chamber.

Arilune made no appearance for the first few months of Markus’s time in the palace. Everyone said that she was ill, suffering from a weak heart and rarely rose from bed. When Arilune finally attended court, Markus was ordered to wait on her. He assumed the work would be tedious, helping the frail Princess in and out of her chair, fetching her water throughout the day. But then Markus met her.

Arilune’s beauty was well reported and many in court found it beguiling, but it was not the Princess’s looks that startled Markus, it was Arilune’s eyes. Arlinue had the fiercest look of any knight or beast Markus had ever met. She challenged everyone with her gaze, constantly searching for a fight, for a reason to prove herself. She pushed away Markus’s hand and scared off her ladies in waiting. When in the audience chamber, she debated every noble that sought to silence her, even her own father. The king became so frustrated that he ordered Arilune to leave when they started discussing war with the Lords of the Roor valley, but she refused.

“Would you get her out!” King Baldwin commanded Markus, flicking a meaty finger at his daughter.

Markus bowed and cautiously approached Arilune, thankful for his visor so he didn’t need to meet Arilune’s impossibly sharp gaze.

Arilune shot him a glance that pierced right through his helmet. “Don’t you dare, touch me.” She said, before turning towards the king. “Father, war would be expensive, almost certainly disastrous, and worse of all, wasteful. We can obtain the riverports of Utherinburg through diplomacy.”

“Don’t be foolish, Arilune!” King Baldwin said waving her off, “The Roor are too stubborn to listen to reason. If we march over the border this summer we can have Utherinburg by winter”

“Yes father, and by spring you will have united all the Lords of the Roor Valley against you. Meanwhile Chancellor Edwin’s daughter needs a suitable husband and Fredrik Vunoff of Roorland just had his marriage annulled. A marriage between the two would be a good start, from there we can squeeze them on the salt trade and form an alliance with Sphettra to intimidate them.” Arilune looked around the audience chamber, “You,” She said pointing to a poor scribe, “Get me some ink and paper and any information we have on the Vunoff linage and lands, with a foothold and proper pressure we could make a claim on Utherinburg itself.”

The ling grumbled, but Arilune pushed on, her advance implacable. She wrote up plans, drafted treaties, dug up ledgers. She slew the arguments of battle hungry barons with tax reports and census accounts. She routed the opposition of tariff weary merchants with plans for expanding the timber and horse trade. After a grueling six hours of debate and planning there was no one left standing in opposition, it was as total and uncompromising a victory as Markus had ever witnessed.

Arilune glared out over the stunned audience chamber, a general surveying a battlefield, making sure none of the enemy was left standing. Satisfied, the Princess took her leave. Markus followed, silent and stiff. It was only when then they were deep into the palace, in a secluded hallway, that Arilune unclenched her fists and started to sway. She collapsed against a wall, breathing heavily. Markus went to aid her.

“I told you…not to…touch me.” Arilune said between beleaguered breaths, her red hair falling over her face, obscuring one of her terrible eyes. Markus paused, but only for a moment. He lifted Arilune’s arm over his shoulder.

“I can’t do that, your highness,” He said, “You need help.”

“I…need no one’s…help” Arilune said coughing, blood splattered the cobble stones.

“I’m afraid you do,” Markus said helping to steady the girl. He added softly, mostly to himself. “But don’t worry, I’m still terrified of you.”

Arilune shifted her gaze to him, her eyes a little less fierce, a thin smile on her lips. “What is your name, knight?”

“Markus of Wayfeild,” Markus said

“Very well Markus, if you’re going to force this indignity on me, you might as well carry me.” Arilune said, “I can’t make it very far right now.”

Markus bowed, scooping Arilune into his arms. After that day Markus was always beside her. Arilune was stubborn and impetuous, but she warmed to Markus. The Princess even made Markus her personal guard and took him with her when she went to make the alliance with the elves of Sphettra.

The elven city was the most intimidating place Markus had ever been. Its streets smelled of sweat and cypress, it’s marble buildings all gleaming white in the hot sun. Statues of Anudica, Goddess of war, lined the road to the city center. Each statue was of a different avatar of Anudica. One was a dwarf with a massive hammer and an eyepatch. Another was a tall, muscular woman with one arm, brandishing a long scimitar. A third one, was a sleek archer, posed as if she was leaping in the air, her robes wafting around her as she drew her curved bow, her face marred by scars. There were dozens of avatars, all different, but all warriors.

The elves of the city were just as impressive as their statues. They were all different sizes and skin color, but each somehow perfect, somehow more real, more alive, than Markus could ever hope to be. Schools dedicated to the many martial disciplines lined the streets. Elves wrestled in the dirt courtyards of some, the ground shaking with the push and pull of their bodies. They practiced spear drills in others, a dozen elves in silver plate moving with a speed Markus could barely track, all in perfect unison. In yet other courtyards they dueled with board swords, their sharp blades flashing like a dance, their movements graceful and precise.

Markus and Arilune’s elven guide led them to the Temple of the Spear, Anudica’s holy armory were all her fabled weapons were stored including her favorite, the spear Baulador. The spear was massive, standing wrapped in scared red binding behind the temple’s alter. A new Scared Sisterhood was swearing themselves to the spear when Arilune and Markus entered. They were led to the back, to wait and speak with Sphettra’s High General, who acted as both leader and chief priestess.

The High General was a board shouldered woman in polished ceremonial armor, her face obscured by a tall helm with braided red and white tassels. Her voice was guttural and sloid, each word of the oath she led, a blow that rung through the domed temple. She paused when she saw Arilune take a seat in back. She held up a hand, silencing the sisterhood.

“You” She said pointing at Arilune, “Step forward.”

Arilune wavered for a moment. As ferocious as she was, Arilune was human, the High General was an elf, the descent of gods. But when Arilune stepped out onto the mosaic floor all her hesitation was gone and her eyes sought the High Generals, looking to stare her down just as Arilune stared down everyone that challenged her.

“I am Arilune, Princess of Haskal, I have come to seek an alliance with mighty Sphettra.” Arilune said, lifting her voice so it would carry through the Temple.

The High General stared back at Arilune, her eyes obscured by her massive helm. Slowly, she took off her helmet. She was ancient, Markus could tell even though no lines graced her face. She was old the way a stone is, hard and smooth. The High General said nothing, but went to one knee, all the other elves in the temple following her.

“Praise Arilune,” The High General said, her voice echoing, “Avatar of Anudica.”

The temple went silent.

“Ready?” A friendly voice asked behind Markus, shaking him from his stupor and bringing him back to the burned gatehouse and his stolen Princess.

“Yes!” Markus said more hotly than he intended, turning around to face his old mentor sir Roland. Markus hadn’t slept all night after losing Arilune in the chaos of the fire, he would have raced off to Sphettra himself if Roland hadn’t insisted oncoming.

Roland padded Markus on the shoulder, his voice calm and soft in his ear. It was the same gesture he used to couch Markus when he was frustrated squire. “I know you’re angry, we’ll get her back, focus on what’s in front of you.”

Markus said nothing, he was more than angry, he was furious, and humiliated, and terrified of what the demons would do to Arilune.

No one had ever believed that Arilune was truly Anudica’s avatar. Arilune herself doubted it in private, she thought maybe the elves were being overly generous, giving her the title to turn Haskal into vassal of Sphettra. Arilune saw no other explanation, she was some weak human girl. She didn’t know how to fight, she couldn’t imagine her statue up there in Sphettra lining the way to the Temple of the Spear.

Markus though, never doubted the High General’s decree. He saw the way the ancient warriors of Sphettra, elves who had been fighting the Dianomachy longer than Haskal had been a kingdom, knelt before Arilune. And Markus had seen the way Arilune fought in the audience chamber in the palace. Arilune may not have had any marshal training, but she was a masterful warrior for certain, and to Markus, a goddess.

Markus did everything he could to be worthy of Arilune and to prove her divine status. He trained with the warriors of Sphettra to master the sword. He rode off on quests in Arilune’s name, slaying ogres and battling orcs. He pledged himself to her and protected her from elven fanatics who doubted her claim and assassins from rival human kingdoms jealous of her title. Markus was always there for Arilune, always, until last night.

“Sphettra will rally the East, maybe even beyond.” Roland said, “The dwarves of the north will come, they have always been our allies, even the Enteral Empire will surely act. Arilune was an avatar of one of the Seven! This was an attack on all of Aphetrria.”

“Will they raise an army to march through Korragorra and the Divide?” Markus asked, fearing he already knew the answer.

Sir Roland cleared his throat, taking a moment. “The Eternal Empire is not what it used to be.” Roland offered, “And well, Spehtrra is just one city, even if it is made up of the world’s most feared warriors. It’s a long march to Neradoom and the orcs will throw everything they have at any force attempting to cross the Divide. And after that well, there’s all of Neradoom and the Demon Pit Lords…”

“She’s a god!” Markus said, stamping his foot.

“Yes, but she’s also—“

“Human,” Markus added, grinding his teeth.

Roland tried his soft smile again, “They’ll send a Fellowship for sure, a small team of heroes will have an easier time sneaking into Neradoom over an army anyway. And the Orcs tend to look the other way when it comes to Fellowships, especially if they’ve got some ghets with them.”

Markus let out a deep breath. It was an insult; taking Arilune was justification enough to restart the Dienomachy. But Markus could live with a Fellowship as long as he was a member.

“Have you ever been part of a Fellowship before?” Markus asked

Roland laughed, “No, no I’ve never left the East, let alone travel into Neradoom. I fought a war or two Markus, but the truth is I’ve seen less battle than you.”

Markus looked at his mentor. Roland was once the greatest knight Markus had ever known, but now he looked old and tired; gray stubble lined his dark jaw, and his body was so small in all that heavy armor. Markus knew his next question was unfair, but he had to ask it.

“Will you come with me on this Fellowship?”

“Yes, of course Markus!” Roland said emphatically, before hesitating again. “But they may not take us. These Fellowships, well, they can be a tad political.”

“They will take us.” Markus said mounting his steed. “They have to. I need to save her, Roland,” Markus clenched his teeth, “I need to save her and slay whatever demon monstrosity took her. I need to know he’s dead.”

Roland gave his former squire a troubled look but said nothing. Markus spurred his horse on, steering them east towards the sun, towards Holy Sphetrra, and on towards cursed Neradoom.

………..

Read more Ghets here

Ghets Chapter 2

Ghets Chapter 2

If you want to read Chapter 1 please check out my Ghets Preview page where I’ll be storing all the chapters I post.

Thanks!


Chapter

In the beginning, there was no Dienomachy. There were no gods. There was only the Ether.

From the Ether two gods emerged. Apherria, goddess of Order and Neradogtha, goddess of Chaos. They were each other’s opposite and should have hated one another other; but did not. They felt a deep need for the other. They embraced and blended and all of existence was them, a swirl. The light chasing the dark, the dark chasing the light. The churn of creation.

In the churn the goddess came to understand themselves and each other, and love emerged. The first emotion, the most vital. Apherria and Neradogtha loved one another. They were still opposites, they would bicker and argue and fight, but they didn’t war. Instead their conflict helped them to grow and create. Apherria created the sun, but Neradogtha grew bored with it and kicked it across the sky creating night. Neradogtha made fire, but it was too hungry and wouldn’t stop eating so Apherria created water to douse it.

The sisters, the lovers, the first gods, worked like this. Creation was a game they played together, a language which expressed their love. They created the old gods, their first children, gods of stone and mountains, gods of wind, gods of moon, and many more. They raised their children together and taught them the language of creation.

But unbeknownst to Neradogtha or Apherria, a third god had emerged from the ether. This third god lived alone, lost, unaware that there was anything like him in the universe. This god, Kor, the wandering god, traveled the vast nothingness of the ether, searching for a home. He eventually found the world. And found the goddesses.

No one knows who Kor met first, Apherria or Neradogtha. But he met them separately, Apherria during the day and Neradogtha during the night. And for reasons only the gods know, both fell in love with Kor. The goddesses didn’t tell each other about this new god either. It was their first betrayal. Kor was different, something neither had created and that intrigued them and made them covet him. It is said the goddesses felt ashamed about their secret, and knew it was wrong, but they kept seeing Kor. Apherria during the day and Neradogtha at night. And Kor never revealed that he met another god either, for he was foolish and only wanted only to be loved and feared returning to the lonely ether.

The old gods, Apherria and Neradogtha’s first children, grew alarmed at these rendezvous and conspired to reveal the truth to their mothers. Moon and Sun entered the same sky, creating the first eclipse. Apherria and Neradogtha both came out to meet Kor. And he revealed himself to both, not sure if it was night or day. The sisters were confused to see each other, but then realized what had happened. The love that they coveted was not theirs alone, their sister had stolen it.

Apherria and Neradogtha were angry and aghast at each other and themselves and most of all at Kor. They banished the wandering god to the sky and they both retreated to opposite corners of the world. If it all ended there then maybe they could have reconciled, as they had done in times past. Maybe they could have even forgiven Kor and all three gods could have lived in peace and love. But it did not end there.

For Neradogtha and Apherria were both pregnant with Kor’s children. And the birth of those children would lead to the first atrocity and from that would bloom a hundred upon hundred more. The world would be rent in two, with each god taking half, turning it into their own lands.

Apherria founded Aphetrria and gave birth to seven daughters, the Elfraye, goddess of civilization, whose descendants would become the Elves. Neradogatha founded Neradoom and gave birth to Zaevas, a son who would live nine lives. In his first life Zaevas molded the Dairkkul out of living Doomcotta.

Ever since their creation, the elves of Aphetrria and the Dairkkul of Neradoom have been at war. It has lasted since the world was remade and it will last until the world ends. The Deinomachy is the way of things.

…………..

For more chapters check out my Ghets Preview

Sir Namington of Somewhereshire: My struggles with coming up with Fantasy Names

Sir Namington of Somewhereshire: My struggles with coming up with Fantasy Names

After years of toiling on two drafts of Ghets, my latest novel, I proudly declared on Facebook that I was looking for beta-readers. Friends and family immediately requested copies, showering me with support. I felt loved and ready to share…but then had to stall. There was just one little problem with the latest draft of Ghets, about half the things in it were missing names.

I love worldbuilding: creating towns and creatures, different legends and cultures, but I absolutely hate naming them. It’s not that I can’t think of names, it’s more that I want to get the name absolutely right and nothing will gum up your writing flow quicker than trying to come up with a name on the fly.

My practice for name generation is to brute force it. Open a fresh word doc and start writing down ever name, sound and spelling that comes to mind. I start with existing names and words to build my new name out of, like Elisette, Odvid and the Uldritch Pit Lords. Maelator, my chief antagonist, I got from chopping a bunch of different words up and mashing them together. I was going for a name that sounded like the big bad from a Saturday morning cartoon and I think I nailed it.

Once I created one new name, it led to others. It make sense that people from the same group would sound have similar sounding names. The chief god of my orcs is named ‘Kor’ so there’s a lot of ‘kors’ and ‘or’s in their naming scheme (maybe too many) there’s the fortress of Korragorra, and Kaikor Reez and her brother Kalighor.

My biggest stumbling block to name creation turned out to be Google. I would come up with the perfect name only to google it and find out it was already the name of a small village in India or the last name of some guy in Uruguay or was in use on the World of Warcraft forums (or all three).

It got to the point where I would spend my writing time for that day playing with different names or tweaking the spelling to create something un-google-able. Finally, I had enough. When I came to a person, place or thing that needed a proper name I just wrote ‘BLANK’ in all caps. It was a revolution.

I was back to writing, back to creating. My writing flow was coursing again uninterrupted. The Angular fish people of the Dark Sea were the BLANK, as were the lizard-like citizens of the Underraod who they fought and raided with the help of the BLANK pit lords. Markus’s magic sword BLANK clashed against Maelator’s magic sword the Jaws of BLANK. And then there was the time BLANK grabbed BLANK’s BLANK and bashed BLANK into the walls of BLANK cathedral.

After I finished Draft II I reread the novel and realized that it was unreadable to anyone, but myself. By some miracle I had remembered what all the BLANKs referred too, but it was a mess. I spent several days creating random fantasy names and waded back into the novel replacing BLANKS with names from my list or giving them more generic ones. I’m still at it even now. I have a hundred pages still to go, hunting down the BLANKs.

But I don’t regret the decision to BLANK myself. When creating drafts, especially rough ones, nothing is more important than just writing. What I do regret is not going with a name more often, no matter how bad or just using one that’s already taken. Everything is already a name, it’s not like Jose Duomarco from Uruguay is every going to read my novel and realize that I used his last name for a port city.

Readers will forgive a good character with a bad name. Besides, it’s only draft II, names can change! And speaking off, anyone have ideas on how to make really good fantasy names? I still have more BLANKS to fill.

A Novel Process

A Novel Process

I started this blog writing about being a failed novelist,( Here.) And I’m proud to say that I’m still very much one. I’m currently working on my next possibly failed project ‘Ghets’ and thought it might be insightful, or at least interesting, to talk a little bit about my novel writing process.

I just got done with my rough draft of Ghets. It took me almost fifteen months from February 15th 2016-April 8th 2017 and clocks in at 162,040 words. Fifteen months is a long time and novel drafts usually don’t take me so long. Dex’s four drafts were each about nine months, but Dex largely took place in the modern world and didn’t require much world building. Ghets takes place in its own world, so there were pauses to settle on cultures and creatures.

When I started writing, rough drafts like ‘Ghets’ were torture. I’d begin with energy and optimism. There’s a thrill in creating something new, like beginning a journey, you have no idea where you’re going. But that’s also its biggest challenge. I’d hit a stride and quickly make it through the first third of the story. But when it was time to shift from the first to the second act I would hit problems.

I would have forgotten to write a vital scene or would realize too late that the surprise I was setting up all first act wasn’t going to work. Like many creators, I suffered from perfectionism. I would go back and add those scenes or fix the surprise and that’s the exact opposite of what you should be doing.

Rough drafts are supposed to be rough. You’re there to throw down all your ideas about the story and keep going. You realize that you need an extra scene to explain something? Pretend you wrote it. You decide your villain should be someone else? He was never the villain, it was always the new guy. The subplot about opening a café isn’t working? Forget it, it didn’t happen, keep writing.

The idea is to run, to not let missed chapters or poor writing stop you. You’re going to be editing this thing for at least the next year you can worry about your mistakes then. Besides you might end up deleting half the story, or going in a completely new direction, don’t get attached. It’s hard a lesson to learn, but it’s vital one.

If you want to be good at anything, then you must first accept that you’re going to be bad at it. No one begins great and very few of us end up great. You must be willing to make mistakes and fail. Writing a rough draft is a great way to do that.

Think of rough drafts like a marathon, how quickly can you make it to the end, while still hitting all your story beats and getting out all the scenes you wanted? It takes grit, but with enough perseverance you’ll get it done. The real complicated stuff happens next.

After I complete the rough draft I reread it. It’s a painful process because now I’m being critical and looking for what doesn’t work. What characters are unnecessary, annoying or otherwise problematic? What scenes are confusing? Where do I lost the thread? I try to nail down themes, figure out with the story is about. I also do my first outline at this point.

When I start a rough draft I have an idea of where I’m starting and where I’m ending. (Always know your endings!) But the parts in between are murky. Once the rough draft is done and I have those parts fleshed out I start to rearrange and evaluate them. Some writers are more orderly, with outlines from the start. But I don’t like things to be too neat going in. I want to surprise myself.

After the reread and outline is done I start the real work and rewrite. This is my new obstacle, were my perfectionism now shows itself. I want to do too much, add too many scenes or do too much editing. The second draft isn’t supposed to be perfect either. It’s just supposed to make your novel workable.

If you were to read ‘Ghets’ right now large portions of it wouldn’t make any sense. There’s a ton of locations or characters with place holders for names. There’s scenes and character arcs that get completely abandoned and one of the villains changes his name mid book. My second draft is meant to clean that gunk up so that someone who isn’t me can actually read the story and give their input.

A second draft shouldn’t be polished, just have the main plot and characters largely formed with as little chaff as possible. The idea is to invite other people to read and have them give big picture critiques. Point out if your plot has too many holes or what they think of your main character. The second draft should have the form of the story, but still some of that nebulousness rough draft in it. Your story might need a major edit, one you can’t see. If enough readers come to you and tell you they love the end of the book but it was slog to get there. You’re going to have a lot you’ll need to cut or change.

After I gather all those critiques I try to digest them. I target the parts that most people hated or found confusing because if just one person hates a story then ‘that’s just like your opinion man’, but if most people do, you’ve got some sort of problem on your hands. I do another reread, or two, chopping off as much as I can and then start draft three.

Draft three is much closer to the finished story. You’ve hopefully fixed most of your plot holes (you’ll never get them all) and have characters that all work and who you understand. Your story should be ‘readable’ at this point. I don’t mean that every sentence is polished and perfect, but that people can read and comprehend what you’re looking to be comprehended.

At this point I hit my beta-readers up for more insights and more granular critiques. After I have that it’s on to draft four which will hopefully be the draft I seek an agent or a publisher for. Even draft four won’t be the end. I’ll still be rereading and editing, chipping away at this or that until I publish it. Or I never stop pecking at it, and leave it to wither out of exhaustion, because art is never finished it’s only abandon.

Either way this has been my process for my last couple of projects. I’ve heard every novel is different and they feel that way. Every writer is different too, some people publish two novels in about the span it takes me to eek out one rough draft (it’s impressive). Regardless, expect to see more posts about Ghets in the future as well as a call for beta-readers in the next 6-9 months!