Guest Post: An Annotated Chapter of PURE CHOCOLATE by Amber Royer (Angry Robot Books)

RoyerA-C2-PureChocolateFirst chapters are hard, you guys. First chapters of sequels – doubly so.

And first chapters for a ‘verse where you’ve built in complicated linguistics and alien cultures with questionable morality? Well… you still have to start somewhere.

There’s a balance with sequels. You don’t want to bore the reader who just finished the previous book, and you don’t want to stall getting started telling the story to re-cap what is now backstory. But you don’t want to people to feel like they walked into the “middle of the movie” either.

I’ve been a writing instructor for UT Arlington for the past eleven years, so I’m sure if some of my students read this, they’ll get a kick out of seeing me pick apart my own work instead of theirs.

Some of what I’m about to say will be bordering spoiler territory, but I’ll try to keep it vague.

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Guest Post: An Annotated Chapter of THE BAYERN AGENDA by Dan Moren (Angry Robot Books)

MorenD-GCW1-BayernAgendaAll right, people: this is not a drill. I’m here to give away all of the precious secrets.

And by “secrets” I mean “hard work and lots and lots of editing.” Because that’s what goes into making a book.

I spent a lot of time working on both my first book, The Caledonian Gambit, and my second, The Bayern Agenda — years, in fact — and as you might imagine, they underwent numerous changes over that period.

The chapter you’ll read below, the opening of The Bayern Agenda, is far from where I started out all those years ago. It’s been tweaked in response to reactions from beta readers, my agent, my editor, and, perhaps most importantly, me. When you spend that long working on something, it’s hard not to learn a thing or two along the way.

So, out of the goodness of my heart — well, and because I was asked to — I’ll be sprinkling observations and comments throughout the chapter, letting you in on the thinking that went into constructing it. (Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything that comes later in the story.) Consider it a look behind the scenes, a VIP backstage pass, a look at how the magician pulls off their tricks. Enjoy.

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Guest Post: “On Research” by Fran Dorricott, author of AFTER THE ECLIPSE

DorricottF-AuthorPicResearch is one of the most important parts of writing a crime novel, and while I don’t research as heavily as some authors I did have several areas I wanted to focus on to make After the Eclipse as authentic a story as I could. I started with the setting – for me, a vivid setting is vitalto getting sucked into a book. I knew from the start I wanted to create a similar world to the one in which I grew up. My parents were divorced, and for a while my dad lived in a caravan. He travelled all over Derbyshire, and when I would stay with him at the weekends my inner explorer came to life. I loved the sweet-smelling open fields, the friendly locals in the small towns and villages, and the glimpses into a hundred other lives. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Plotting the Perfect Murder” by Steve Cavanagh

CavanaghS-ThirteenUKI get a lot of compliments about the plotting in my books. I’ve been lucky, in that way. And yet every single piece of praise about the plot of Thirteen, or any of the other Eddie Flynn books makes me feel like a fraud.

Now, let’s be serious here. I’m also a writer, and that means I love it when people enjoy the books and when they say nice things. Keep those compliments coming. And the nice Amazon reviews. I like those too. I may feel like a fraud, but I’m willing to forego my feelings for event the faintest praise.

What I really mean is I don’t know how to plot a novel. I have no clue. In my mind plotting means colour-coded flash cards, whiteboards with all the names of the characters written large with arrows flowing between them, an outline, a beat sheet, a corkboard covered in Post-It notes, pages in a journal with notes for every character, a line graph showing the five-act structure, a detailed plan of the book with every scene sketched out from beginning to end.

I don’t do any of that. I can’t. See, told you I was a fraud. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Writing a Trilogy — Lessons Learned” by Tom Doyle

DoyleT-AuthorPicThe final book in my American Craft trilogy, War and Craft, has just been released. It’s like sending the last kid to college — bittersweet emotion with a practical “so now what?” Before I move on to my next project, I’d like to share with you a few of my personal observations about the process, particularly if you’re a new writer planning on writing a series.

First lesson: never plan on writing a series.

Yeah, sounds like a joke, but seriously, don’t do it–unless someone has already said that they’re going to pay you for it. When I wrote American Craftsmen, I had intentionally not planned for a series. I recommend this same self-discipline to all new writers — don’t engage in heavier worldbuilding than necessary for something which may never see the light of day. The odds are long against your selling any given book to a publisher, so every minute you spend creating further material in that book’s universe has a high probability of being wasted. The best thing you can do for yourself while trying to sell a book is to start writing a completely different one. Continue reading

Guest Post: “I am Not in Control” by Joshua Palmatier

PalmatierJ-AuthorPicI’m certain nearly everyone who loves to read books and follows their favorite authors has heard those authors at some point say, “The character took control.” This is extremely common. In fact, with my own writing, if the characters don’t at some point take control and do unexpected things, then the book isn’t succeeding. The characters need to take on their own life for the author. If they aren’t doing that for the author, then they certainly aren’t coming to life for the reader. And that means the book has failed.

However, I want to talk about something a little more significant than a character suddenly revealing a lifelong passion for poisons, altering the plot and bringing in an added extra (darker?) layer to the character that you’d never considered. What I want to talk about is when the book takes control. Not just a character or set of characters, but the entire book. Continue reading

Guest Post: “How to Write a Book a Year, and Work Full Time” by William C. Dietz

dietzwc-authorpicI had always wanted to write a novel, and with luck, publish it. And for some reason I chose age 40 as my deadline. But the years passed and, on the day when I turned 39, I hadn’t written a single page. There were numerous reasons for that not the least of which was the fact that I had a demanding job, a wife, and two children.

What to do? Should I slip the deadline to 50? Give up? Or make the book happen somehow. I chose option three. All you have to do is write one page a day, I reasoned (about 300 words), and you’ll have a rough draft 365 days later! (300 words a day x 365 = 109,500 words.) And guess what? It worked. The book (Galactic Bounty) sold right away. Continue reading