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Writing, writing formats and the Adventures on Brad

 

A Dungeon's Soul
A Dungeon’s Soul

Book 3 – the last book in the series for a while – of the Adventures on Brad is now out.

There are a number of reasons I’ve pulled the series to a close. Among them is the fact that this is a great stopping point, where there’s a little bit of hope and curiosity but the arc is now over and done with.

However, another major reason is recent considerations about how I write and writing formats.

 

Writing Formats

I call the Adventures on Brad my light novel inspired series. Each book is short and more slice-of-life than ‘plot’ driven, a meandering look at the characters. While many light novels have plots, they also take these long slice-of-life looks at the characters.

In addition, when I wrote A Healer’s Gift (and to some extent, An Adventurer’s Heart), I posted the books on Royal Road, chapter by chapter.  I’d sit down, write a full chapter, post it and do it again a few days / a day later. With the structure of specific daily chapters in mind, my writing styled itself to keep each chapter somewhat self-contained.

When writing A Dungeon’s Soul, I wrote the entire book as I do normally these days, picking up from scene to scene, trying to work a plot into it without drifting into random chapters. I think it worked, but it started drifting I think from the initial light novel aspect, with less time with the characters individually.

Unfortunately, between RL jobs and writing at least 1 other series, being able to focus and write a chapter here or there didn’t seem to work anymore. However, looking back, I think the entire series actually benefits from the ‘start and stop’ style, at least if I want to keep it to the same ‘feel’.

You see this as well in the way certain novels are written. The Wandering Inn, is very much a webserial. It meanders, wanders around and does a ton of slice-of-life things and flashbacks, switching POVs constantly and having a slow moving ‘plot’. Then again, it’s a web-serial. Buying into the serial is buying into the idea that you’ve got years to finish this. The medium changes the format of writing.

A ‘novel’ is often self-contained, with a common ‘Western’ beginning, middle and end. It requires significanltly different structuring. Which is something I find a bit more difficult to do with the Adventures on Brad.

Shifting POVs

I have a bad habit of head-hopping. It’s funny really – head hopping used to be very prevalent in older books but these days is strongly discouraged. Unfortunately, I often find myself doing that while writing and partly it’s because I limited myself to Daniel’s POV when I started the series.

When I pick up the series again, I probably will shift from a limited POV of Daniel for the entire book to shifting POVs for specific scenes to Asin & Omrak.  It’d help to make the book a little more interesting I think.

So what?

All of this is my way of saying that the series is going on hiatus. Sort-of. What I’ll probably do is write in it once in a while when inspiration strikes me, adding a chapter here and there till  I have a ‘book’. When that happens, I’ll be ready to publish, but it probably will take some time.

This will allow the series to continue in its rambling ways without putting too much pressure on ‘when’ it gets released. It’ll also let me play around with the POVs and format a bit.

The anatomy of a book

Let me start by pointing out that this is my process, not others.  However, currently this is the way a book for me is created along with the timelines of development.

Action Timeline Notes
Plot Outline 1 I generally put together a rough plot outline.  This is actual writing time to put it on paper.  By the time I’m ready to write a plot outline, I’ve got a shaky idea of what is going to happen already.  However, writing it down often crystalizes my thoughts.  I’m an exploratory writer though, so what is written in a plot outline and what ends up on paper can be quite different.
First Draft 2,000 words a day I write approximately 2,000 words a day if I’m focused.  For the System Apocalypse books, each book is roughly 90,000 words.  That works out to about 45 days of straight writing.  At best, that’s a month and a half if I don’t hit any writing blocks.
Break 1 week Taking a small break lets me re-read the book fresh.  Often, I’ll be editing or writing a new book during this period.  This break lets my brain ‘reset’ and find gaps in the plot to fill in or to review the second draft.
Second Draft Approx 5,000 words a day For 90k words, that’s approximately 18 days. 5k words is actually a bit conservative here, I often end up getting obesses with fixing things and do more.
Beta Readers 2 weeks I give my Beta Readers 2 weeks to check out the book.  The last time, they all came back to me within 4 days.  Good beta readers are so important – they can tell me if I’m doing something really silly with the plot.  Or they find plot holes for things I forgot about.
Revising 2nd Draft 2 – 3 days Often, there’s a few scenes that need to be brushed up or new scenes to write.  Redeemer of the Dead saw me writing 2 new scenes from comments and rewriting about another half-dozen
Professional Editing Variable.  Often 2-3 weeks minimum At this point, I’m ready to send it to my editor.  I do NOT use a development editor at this time (who offers professional critique of the book’s plot / etc.).  Mostly, they are doing line editing and proof-reading.  I have to book editors weeks in advance, sometimes months.  In Redeemer of the Dead’s case, it’ll take about a month from when they are booked to start
Third Draft 3-5 days Again, this is variable.  The editor comes back with fixes, I go through the document and fix issues.  Depending on the level of editing (and who I’m using), I might get notes about scenes that need fixing which means I’ll be writing new scenes or fixing older scenes.

Now, there are a bunch of things that can happen in-between:

  • Alpha readers might be brought in.  Sometimes, as a writer you have no idea if you’re on the right course.  Alpha readers who end up reading a REALLY rough draft get to check that
  • Developmental Editing is an option that happens after the First Draft (or perhaps even during the course of the book).  I don’t do that because I’m poor and paying $0.08 per word would make the book cost US$7,000 before it was even published.
  • Multiple readthroughs / edits for the 1st / 2nd draft might occur.  I occasionally pull out the book before I send it to the editor for more fixing.  Often this is to fix phrasing / clumsy sentence construction.
  • Writer’s block & burn-out.  Yeah, writing at this pace can be a lot.  So taking a few dysy off happens.  Sometimes I run away and spend a weekend reading and with the family.
  • Work!  I do have a day-job and if that eats up my time / energy, writing slows down.

You can see how writing really varies depending on length of book and inspiration.

 

Again, remember, this is my own process.  It also is evolving constantly.  When I first started writing, there was no plot outline, no professional editing.  It was just write for the fun of it.

Questions? Comments?

10% Returns

10% sounds like a huge return.  It is.  In fact, it’s higher than most mutual funds will be able to provide, higher even than most hedge funds.  However, it is possible to do so, I have for nearly 8 years now.  Yes – even through the huge market crash in 2006 / 2007.

On that note, I’m just going to list some general thoughts for now.

The disclaimer: Not a financial planner or analyst, take what I say here with a grain of salt; don’t invest (not that I’m going into details anyway) on this information alone. Do Your Own Research.

First Things First

Generally, there’s no way to get to that level of return without taking a risk.

The more risk you take, the higher your general return.  It’s why you need to start investing young – you can take that risk when you are young – you have the time to make that money back.  Risking it all when you are 60 is a bad idea.

Also, you will almost never get that level of return from a mutual fund.  Especially once you take out their Management Expense Ratio (MER) – aka their cut.  In Canada, it’s generally 2-3% of the total fund.

Second Thing

You won’t get there without some research.  6 – 8% sure; not a problem – stick in an ETF that tracks the market, get a balanced couch potato portfolio and you’ll do pretty well most years.  It’s not great returns, but it’s a heck of a sight better than what you get in a GIC.

At 10% you need to be actively doing research, watching the general trends not only in the financial markets but the entire economy (global) so you have an idea of the way things are going to play out in broad strokes.

You also have to start looking at specific shares.  And yes, that means taking risks.

Third Thing

It’s not as risky as you think – you can still generate damn decent returns buying things like blue chips.  If you bought Telus shares in 2010 at $16.50, you’d have received dividends of $4.51 till today, received a 2:1 split and still have shares worth $34.64.  That’s more than 400% returns in 3 years, or approximately 133%.

I’ll talk about specific strategies, but there are ideas out there like Buying the Dogs of the DOW, Value Investing and Dividend Investing.  All of them have good points and can generate good returns, with an amount of manageable risk.

You just have to do the research (see point 2.)

Fourth Thing

Cut your losses early.  I have a hard time with this one still.  It’s important though.  If you go up by 10% and then down by 10% you are actually behind.  You have to reduce your downsides faster than your upsides.

Fifth Thing

Cash out.  Remember Telus? Well, make sure you cash some of that money out when you can.  Until you actually cash that money out, it’s all paper gains.

Sometimes you’ll want to reinvest that money.  Sometimes you’ll want it in bonds.  Whatever the case, cash out some of those gains – you might lose out on future gains, but you also miss any huge drops.

Sixth Thing

Diversify.  Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  Own more than a few stocks, in more than a few sectors.

Caveat – if you have less than 5k to invest; you really should consider a mutual fund.  Yeah, I know – it’s still better than nothing and it’ll allow you to diversify automatically.

Seventh Thing

Never invest money you can’t afford to lose.  Really, that should be like point no.2 in anything I say.

Eighth Thing

Don’t play the market.  By that I mean don’t try to invest and ‘win’ each stock, you are much better off just doing a few transactions a year (in total!) than buying and selling each month.  Watch the market, but don’t play it unless you can make it your full-time job.

Ninth Thing

Practice, practice, practice! You don’t have money now? No problem – Google Finance allows you to create a ‘portfolio’ of stocks.  Start doing the research now, ‘buying’ stocks and funds and tracking your imaginary portfolio.  Watch how things change, and try to figure out why you are winning / losing.

You’ll learn a lot just by practising and doing your own research.

Tenth Thing

There’s no get rich quick scheme. I probably don’t need to say this – but people who try to sell you a get rick quick scheme are probably lying to you.  There’s no quick way to get rich investing; not without a huge amount of risk, a lot of luck and some great connections.

Lastly

Rather importantly, don’t discount luck in all this.   I’ve gotten lucky more than once; but you have to be willing to put yourself in play and in position to get lucky.