Sometimes we writers use words too much. Wait. That’s not what I meant.
Sometimes we use the SAME words too much. All writers do. We have our pet words or phrases we use all the time. Sometimes, we’re aware of it and work hard to avoid it. Sometimes we’re blind to it until a reader points it out.
The most pernicious of these words are filler words like “that,” or being verbs like “was” and “had.”
As part of my revision process, I’ve been doing searches on those particular words and doing what I can to cut them down. Sometimes, especially with a word like “that,” I can just delete it. Sometimes, I need to re-write entire sentences or even paragraphs.
So far in the last week or so, I’ve eliminated 174 uses of “that,” 345 uses of “was,” and 77 uses of “had.” (Just getting started on “had.”)
This may seem crazy to non-writers or editors. Why bother with all of this? Why not just get the story out?
The end result is much stronger writing, which benefits readers, whether you realize it or not. Poor writing, while it may not be immediately noticeable to the average reader, works on you over time. An entire book of it? It will diminish your enjoyment of the story itself, leaving you a little unsatisfied, even if you’re not entirely sure why.
So be patient, dear readers, as I go through this mind-numbing process. (Because it is. I’m sick of these words.) It’s important.
And then after this, I need to work on adverbs. Wheee.
I had a very different plan for what I was going to post here today. Weird things happen.
In this case, my washing machine broke. Thanks to the internet (yay internet!), I figured out that the drain pump was clogged. This morning, I took it all apart, cleaned it up, and put it back together.
And then it happened. I dropped the very last screw down into an eight-inch deep, one-inch wide shaft. Ugh.
For the next hour, I felt like the kids in the movie The Sandlot. I tried scheme after scheme to get to that stupid screw. Nothing worked. Vacuum. Magnets. Wire. Sticky-tack. Hot glue.
In some ways, I realized later today, that madness is not unlike what I’m going through in this editing process.
I know a particular scene can resonate. But it’s missing something. Let me try this… no, that doesn’t work… how about this… no, still doesn’t work… And on and on it goes. It may be just one word that solves everything in a particular scene. But I have to keep trying.
The good news is that eventually, I did solve the screw problem. I attached a narrow piece of PVC pipe to the vacuum cleaner with duct tape and sucked the screw out. But then I had to dig through the vacuum’s bag to find it. Pro Tip: if you’re vacuuming up a screw that you need, put in a fresh bag first.
And eventually, I’ll solve all these editing problems. It’s actually coming along quite well. I’m pleased with what I have, but I know there are still many things that could be better. I’ll be sending it to some alpha readers very, very soon for their feedback.
In related news, my continuing studies in writing have convinced me that I’m just not working hard enough. I’ve written out a four-year writing plan. If I stay motivated and do the work, I’ll have 5-6 books out by the end of this period. That’s good news for you if you actually like reading what I write.
If you’re stuck on something, keep trying. You never know when just one word – or a strip of duct tape – will solve the problem.
A few minutes ago, I typed the last words in Until All Bonds Are Broken, the sequel to Until All Curses Are Lifted. After a marathon day of writing here on New Year’s Eve, I wrote over 6,000 words and finished the first draft.
And there was much rejoicing.
So what does this mean, exactly? Especially if you’re a reader eagerly anticipating this book? Well, sadly, it does NOT mean you’re about to get your hands on it. A first draft is just that: a first draft. You wouldn’t want to read it right now. Trust me. Parts of it wouldn’t even make sense.
I need to get through one complete editing process and partial re-write before I even let a handful of people look it over. Here are a few examples of what still needs to be done, before I can even call this a mostly complete book:
• I have to arrange the scenes into proper chapters. You know how there are multiple stories going on with different character points-of-view? I have to arrange them so they make sense.
• I have places where I left off some detailed description because I was in a hurry and needed to keep moving at the time. So there are places where the text reads something like [insert description here].
• Some times, I didn’t come up with proper names for minor characters or places while writing. Since there are multiple cultures involved in the world of Antises, each name has to be consistent from a linguistic point of view, and that takes time to work out. So many places in the current draft, you’ll find placeholder names like VILLAGENAME or VILLAGEIDIOT. (Okay, I didn’t use that one, but I should have.)
• I know of at least three scenes that I need to go back and add, places where I realized later that I needed more development of a particular event or character.
• While writing, I often think of things I need to check on or revise. But rather than stopping the writing and going back to revise things, I add the thought to a list. I have a very lengthy list of these revisions that I already know I need to do. Actually, I have two of those lists: one on my computer with the book itself, and one on my phone, from when I thought of things while away from the computer (or in the middle of the night).
• Some characters need their arcs fleshed out a bit better. I need to re-read all of their appearances and make sure everything flows properly, so as to create the best emotional resonance toward the end of the book.
The book currently stands at 124,413 words. That’s around 16,000 words shorter than the first book. But after making all the revisions I listed above, I’m sure it’ll get much closer to that amount, or even exceed it. Then comes more detailed editing process, where things may get deleted or re-arranged or expanded, so the final word count could be anywhere from 110,000 to 150,000.
So… in a few days, after I relax a bit, I’ll return to this manuscript and start on the revisions I know about. I’ll call this the second draft, and the slider on the right will reflect that. After that, I’ll look for opinions from a few trusted people I know, then make more revisions. An editor will look at it. I’ll make more revisions. And then comes proofreading. And more proofreading. And yet more proofreading.
In case it’s not obvious, this also is a months-long process. I can’t tell you for sure when the book will be in your hands. But I’m hoping for the end of summer or thereabouts.
Not long ago, I received a copy of A War of Whispers, the new board game from Starling Games. As always, when I review games on this blog, I do so as a writer, and how this game inspires or motivates my writing.
When an average gamer sees A War of Whispers set up on a table, the first questions are something like, “Oh, it’s a war game? Which one are you playing?” The answers are: “No, not really,” and “None of them.”
In this game, five nations are on the verge of war. However, the two-to-four players involved are not controlling any of the specific nations. Instead, each player controls a secret society that is manipulating ALL FIVE nations. Through the use of your agents, you decide where a nation recruits its troops, and its attacks – who, when, and where.
The point of this manipulation is that each society is rooting for different nations to succeed or fail. At the beginning of the game, you randomly place five tokens to determine how allied (or not) your society is with each nation. This determines point values and the winner at the end of the game. For the nation you most support, you’ll get 4 points per city they control at the end. For the nation you’re most against, you’ll get -1 point per city. And so on.
It doesn’t take long for players to realize that it’s just as important to manipulate the nations you oppose as it is the ones you support. That often leads to hilarious results. “We need to recruit new troops… in the mountains over here away from everyone else. It’s safer that way.” Or “Yes, let’s attack six armies with two. I’m sure it will work out for the best.”
But each nation has different land, different borders, different starting positions (one starts with NO armies on the board!), and different ways of recruiting and fighting. It sounds complicated, but the actual gameplay is fairly simple. The complexity comes from determining the best course of action and trying to react or block your opponents’ actions.
In my writer’s mind, this game spawns all kinds of stories. What kind of manipulation did it take to convince the Chancellor of the Lion Nation to march its armies into a complete disaster? What of the soldiers themselves? What does that do to the morale of the nation? Every game produces more ideas, more concepts.
I love board games. I love stories. When one inspires the other, I love it even more. A War of Whispers is a solid addition to my collection and will be played many more times.
Until All Curses Are Lifted only has a few reviews online, but each one so far has been overwhelmingly positive. Here are some samples:
From Midwest Book Review: “An inherently riveting read by an author with a genuine flair for originality and a distinctively engaging and entertaining narrative storytelling style, Until All Curses Are Lifted by Tim Frankovich will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library Science Fiction & Fantasy collections.”
From Elle Espiritu, Reedsy Discovery: “I was part of this world. I cared for its people. Even the Leper Assassin Kishin tugged at a corner of my heart. I genuinely cried over a pivotal scene at the temple of Theon, the one that proved just how powerful a mother’s love can be. I felt shivers when the two seemingly separate tales of Marshal and Seri finally intertwined. The good people are set on their sworn duties and even the most villainous of creatures had something significant to fight for… I can’t wait to read more.”
Jarrod, on Amazon: “I was blown away after I finished reading this. With a slow start to introduce the world and its mechanics, the book quickly picks up into one of the most intricately designed stories I’ve read in quite some time.”
Christopher K., on Amazon: “I have not been this captivated by a story in a very very long time. Characters, world crafting, and plot were all very well developed. The writing was very good and supported the story perfectly. I have already recommended this to several friends, and will continue to do so. Can’t wait for the next one!!”
Sherry, on Goodreads: “Really enjoyed the adventure, the truth shining through in each character. These are people you can care about. Well done! I look forward to the next in this series coming out soon.”
From the Tales from the Book Dragon blog: “Clear your calendar for a few hours. Put on the teapot or fill up the coffeepot. Grab the holiday cookies. Lock the door. You need time to get to know these new friends and enemies. I loved this book. It world is filled with characters who are highly imaginative and yet, undeniably realistic in that they can be sympathized with and related to. Odd, isn’t it. This is a land I would love to visit (wouldn’t want to live there, mind you). Frankovich has given the world a new series to sink our fangs and claws into and I, for one, plan to.”
Reviews are the most important thing for a writer (besides sales). If you’ve enjoyed this book, please take a minute to let others know on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. You don’t have to write like the reviews above. One sentence and a star rating is enough. But the more reviews a book gets, the more interest it gets from others. Thanks, everyone!
FINISHED! I just wrote 1495 words today. That brings the total for National Novel Writing Month 2019 to… 50,092.
What does this mean to you, the reader? It means I’m 50,092 words closer to finishing the first draft of Until All Bonds Are Broken. If you check the bar on the right, it’s showing I’m over 77% done with the expected length of the book.
There’s a very strong chance that I’ll finish before January 1. But the climax of the story is here. I have to step back for a couple of days and outline things more specifically. There are a lot of “moving parts” to get right here. So many characters. So many plot lines. All of it coming together in… well, I can’t say much more.
Most ominous line I wrote today: “They don’t hunt in packs, do they?”
Last Friday, my wife and I drove down to Corpus Christi. On Saturday, we took part in the second annual Wordfest, a book festival and symposium held at Texas A&M Corpus Christi. We had a great experience.
They had a contest for best decorated table, so we went all out, as you can see from the photo. The fiber-optic lights represent Seri’s color beams of magic. There’s Victor’s flail. And a friend loaned me the big metal dragon. No, there aren’t any dragons in this book, so he’s holding a sign that explains that. The result? We won second place!
Such a diverse group of people. For the day, my table sat in between a local Christian radio DJ (who also wrote a book), and a college professor promoting her book on social justice activism. (She sold more than I did, even though she was charging $35!)
I did sell a few books, but I also got to share my experiences and advice with several young writers who are hoping to publish their own stories. We talked about independent versus traditional publishing methods, and the difficulties involved in each.
Most amusing conversation I had: the one with the college girl who said, “I’m always curious to talk with people who write for money.”
Manning an author table is great fun, and I hope I can find a few more opportunities sometime soon.
Unfortunately, this event, with the travel and everything else involved, put me behind on #NaNoWriMo. But not by much! I’ll write more each of the next few days to catch back up. I have just over 10,000 words to go. The end is in sight!