Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Ending

Never, ever revise your opening chapter, your opening line, or the opening scene to your story if you haven't already written then ending. Mike Stackpole once told me, "Would you rather thirty chapters of a finished novel? Or thirty revisions of chapter one?" And he's right.

This is probably the advice I give to people more often than anything else.

Writers will ask about when they know how to move on from their first chapter, or they'll ask how to tell if they're opening is right, but there is no answering that question if there is no ending.

Unless you know exactly the bullseye you're aiming at, you're not going to be able to make the fine adjustments in your aim at the beginning of the process. That's the best part of writing. It's like archery in that you are aiming at the center of a target, but once you hit the target the first time, you don't have to shoot another arrow. You can go back to the beginning and readjust your aim and try again, seeing how close you came to that red dot in the middle.

That didn't do the trick?

Guess what! You can do it again.

And again. And again. You're always working with that same arrow.

That's what's great about writing novels. You never have to put a book out without putting your best foot forward and you always know you're going to hit the target you're aiming at.

As far as beginnings go, I do my best to not start a book until I know exactly what the ending is. Then, when I get to the end, all of the organic revelations I had during the drafting process will come to light and I'll have a much better idea of how things come together. Then I get to go back and make sure the beginning supports that point in ways I would have never even realized were possible if I hadn't finished.

Then I do that over and over and over again.

I do the same thing with my columns for City Weekly or Big Shiny Robot! I don't start writing the first sentence until I've worked out what the last sentence in the piece is. Then, writing it doesn't take so long and rewriting is even faster.

So, that's my two cents for this week.

If you're looking for some of my other work across the print media and Internet, my latest piece for Salt Lake City Weekly is about why it's not so bad that our favorite superhero movies don't win Oscars.

I'll also have my full schedule for Star Wars Celebration posted next week and we'll see what other irons have completed their time in the fire. In the meantime, I'm hard at work, still drafting new short stories and working every day on the revision of "The Aeronaut."

And don't forget to check out any of my books, drop reviews of them on Amazon or Goodreads, and follow me on twitter!


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

On Editing and Revisions

When you're in the midst of a revision on a book that you've been through a dozen times it's easy to get bogged down. It's easy to feel as though no sentence matters and word choices are less than meaningless. It's easy to feel like no one wants to read your book anyway. More than anything, it's easy to forget that you wanted to write this book in the first place.

I've been hovering around those feelings as I toil on the book I'm readying for publication. I've re-written whole sections, I've changed character motivations, I've added, subtracted, and, hopefully, multiplied.

And the hardest part of this process is having to keep the whole novel in your head, knowing that if you beat in a dent in one spot it won't protrude awkwardly in another spot altogether.

I'm constantly reminding myself that there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

And it's easy to do that every time I find just the right word. Or tweak things in just the right spot. You can feel it. It all falls into place and there's almost no better feeling on Earth. But getting there is a slog.

Perhaps the hardest part for me is balancing the needs of the editor, the publisher, and my own artistic vision for the book. But the thing to remember is that we are all working on the same team to put out the best book possible, to tell the best story we can. And sometimes I'll put my foot down and fight for what I want, and other times I'll completely back pedal on my original idea because something that's been suggested is really that much better than anything I could have come up with.

Yes, sometimes it can be a fight. Or an incredibly intense creative discussion. Or a simple note on a page of manuscript mocking my original intentions. But working with an editor and a publisher is like working with a safety net. And I'm not sure why you'd ever want to work without one.

By way of an update this week, I was able to unveil an exclusive preview of Batgirl: Endgame #1 (which hits comic stands tomorrow) for Huffington Post. It's a good looking book and I can't wait to get an issue of it in my hands.

My latest for StarWars.com also came out. It's a piece examining the connection between Star Wars and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. I love writing these pieces as they force me to dig deep into stories and story structure and helps me better understand what makes my stories tick.

There were also two huge bits of Star Wars news I was excited about. First, Rogue One has been announced as the first standalone movie in the universe. The name almost automatically implies X-Wings, and that makes me happier than you can imagine. Mike Stackpole and Aaron Allston, authors I feel privileged to have been able to call 'friend,' wrote the definitive takes on X-Wing pilots and combat in the Legendary Star Wars universe. That we might be able to get a taste of them on the big screen, no matter how minor, is a thrill to me. Mike wrote about it on his blog and you should read about it there.

The other big Star Wars announcement I'm excited for is Star Wars: Aftermath. It was announced that this will be the first in a trilogy to help us bridge the gap between Episode VI and VII and Chuck Wendig is writing.

I can't wait to read it and, at some point, offer congratulations to Mr. Wendig.

It's going to be great.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Weekly Update...

Another week has gone by and a lot of work has been done. 

I finished two more short stories. One is called Somnus, and I have absolutely no idea where to place it. I might start sending it out for publication after a revision or two because I don't quite think it works yet. 

The other is called Byline and sort of attacked me out of nowhere. I write in my notebook every morning to warm up and I had a great idea for a first line to a short story. Then a second line. Then a third. Soon enough I had like a 2,000 word piece in my notebook. I also don't have a plan for this one.

I started work on another short story, though, and this one is a world I created for a different short story called Escape Vector that will be coming out in a collection sometime in the next couple of months. It's been a lot of fun to think about and write, and really that's all I can ask for.

The lion's share of my time, though, has been spent writing a short film that I've been working on a grant application for (it's called 3 1/2 Stars and is about a film critic who falls for a woman with terrible taste in movies.) It's about 20 pages long and keeps begging me to write it as a feature film, so that might be next on my plate. 

The other big monopolizer of my time is working on rewrites of The Aeronaut. It's going to feel so good when it's done, but today is not that day.

As far as journalism stuff, I broke a pretty big story in the world of Star Wars. It was about Paul Kemp's inclusion of the first character in the new Star Wars canon that is LGBT. (You can read the original story here.) It got picked up everywhere. NPR. CNN. BBC. MTV. The LA Times...  Seriously. Everywhere. I think it's important, too. I really want to see better diversity in all the stuff I'm reading, not just my writing. 

That reminds me of a post I wrote a while ago about how to write women, which is something I think is still relevant. (Click here to read it.

But for now, I'll leave you with a video of me discussing how I come up with plots.


Don't hesitate to check out any of my books, drop reviews of them on Amazon or Goodreads, and follow me on twitter!