Tag Archives: magic

Breaking all the rules

I’m currently working on my 7th novel (since being published – not including all the trunk novels) and something weird has happened. I’m breaking some of my own rules.

You have to write every day. You have to plan every book. You must not plan the story, let it flow organically. You need to set a daily word count. You should write to music. You should write in silence. Write in different places. Don’t have a set routine, be organic. Write in public. You absolutely have to get scrivener (or another program) in order to write. Use cards on a white board and plan stuff that way.

There is not one way to write a book. I need to make that clear because the most common questions I’m asked by writers trying to get an agent and then get published are focused on the above. Do I have to write a 100o words a day? Is it better to write in the morning or afternoon? Should I write with music? Should I work on more than one book at once?

Find your own way. Find what works for you. My way might not work for you. I’ve included a few conflicting statements above as I know some people who plan and some who write organically. Some who write in silence, some who need music. The following in my approach. It may not work for anyone else except me.

I always write at home, on Word, and nothing else. I plan my books, start, middle, end and milestones. The creative part comes in the leaps between milestones. I make notes in a notebook, on post it notes, on my phone, on scraps of paper, then write them up, and collect them together. I plan my stories. I always write with soundtrack music and can’t write with any music that has lyrics. I tend to write most days but am not rigid about taking a day off and I tend to set a daily word count for myself as I have deadlines. The word count keeps me moving, keeps me motivated and I constantly have one eye on the calendar. All of those are my rules and that’s what works for me. The music and being at home helps get my brain into a familiar space and off I go, sort of like muscle memory.

For my 7th novel, I’ve broken quite a few of my own rules. I found out when I started I couldn’t write with any kind of music. Nothing was working, which at first had me worried. So one day, after I’d revised my notes so many times I knew I had to actually write something I just tried it without any music. And suddenly it worked. The words started flowing. I had a new rhythm. I didn’t care why it was working only that it was working, so I continued. Months later I’m still writing this book without any music.

I’m tweaking my chapters. I never do this. When I sit down to write, I look back at what I’ve done on the previous day, I might tinker with the last paragraph or two, if it’s mid-chapter, or just glance at it if I am starting a new chapter. Then I move forward. Always forward so I finish a first draft and don’t get stuck in the endless cycle of trying to make it ‘perfect’. A first draft is never perfect. It’s always a mess. As Terry Pratchett said ‘A first draft is just you telling yourself the story’ and I absolutely believe that. The reworking comes later to make it flow and make it into more cohesive whole.

But this time I’m…tweaking things. Not to the point where I’m frozen and stop, but overnight, or when I’m away from the keyboard, I’m running conversations or bits of the previous day in my head, then I rush back and fix it that day, or first thing the next day. I’m still making good progress but this is very new and different. It might be because it is set in a new world, and I am still discovering it and the characters, but I also think it’s partially because this is a new style for me.

No music and polishing as I go. The first draft is still going to be rough, no doubt, but I’m happy with it so far. Ask me again in 6 months when I start to revise it and I will have a different answer, but it’s good to feel that way right now. I’m still planning and I have a skeleton plot which I’m following. I still set daily word counts and I still take a day off when I feel like it, especially if I’m tired or the well is getting a bit dry. A rest and complete break really can help me recharge the batteries.

So, somehow this time, it’s all new and different and fresh, despite it being my fifteen or sixteenth novel. I’ve honestly lost count at this point. But the important thing is it’s working and I will finish this first draft as planned. Stop worrying about how other people do it. Find what works for you and just finish the book.

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SciFiNow Interview

Recently I did an interview with SciFi Now where I talk about writing Mageborn, how it the first trilogy feeds into it, influences and world-building.

Read the full interview here

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What happened at MCM

Last weekend was the super busy London MCM Comic Con. For those who’ve never been it’s a massive event at the Excel Centre in London with tens and tens of thousands of people in attendance. I’m always amazed at how many people attend and again it was slightly overwhelming to walk through the vast crowds, many of who were dressed in cosplay. I’ll be honest, I didn’t recognise about 50% of the cosplay because many of them were from anime, computer games I don’t play (you can tell how old I am because I still call them computer games!), comics and other things I’ve probably never even heard of. Even so it was amazing to see the time and effort that people had put into their costumes. I saw several women with fairy-like wings that moved independently with some sort of motor. Very clever and creative.

Both Marvel and DC had a presence at the show this year. Marvel had taken over a whole section and had lots of cool things you could do, as well as see, including some costumes from the Thor Ragnarok film and forthcoming Black Panther film. There were also some cool statues of Captain America, Spider-man, Iron Man and the Hulk.

When not mooching around the show trying not to buy everything I went to a couple of talks and was delighted and charmed by Hayley Atwell. She was funny, warm and spoke about her time on the Marvel films and Agent Carter with great affection. It was wonderful to hear about how her relationship with various actors, such as Chris Evans, had developed over time as they’ve now worked together in the same universe on several films.

I was also on a few writing panels during the weekend alongside other science fiction and fantasy authors. Below are a few photos from our panels ,as well as Ed Cox attempting to get everyone to put on a serious author face. Without a doubt the funniest panel during the weekend was one moderated by RJ Barker. The audience, and everyone  on the panel, had no clue what was about to hit them and it was hilarious. Ben Aaronovitch was in tears several times and Guy Adams had a few funny rants.

The weekend was a lot of fun. I got to spent time with some old friends, met a few faces and came home exhausted but happy. I must thank Travis from MCM for inviting me back again and maybe I’ll see you at the next event, which is the one day Sledge-Lit festival in Derby on Saturday 25th November.

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It was the year of……

Coming up on the end of 2014 is making reflect about the last twelve months. It’s certainly been an interesting year with big highs and lows, but I’ll focus on the good for the most. Back in February (which seems like decades ago on one hand) I announced my book deal with Orbit. Since then I’ve been working really hard on editing book 1 and that’s nearly done now. Nearly. I’ve one final round of proof-checking to come and then it is out of my hands.

The hard work by myself, and other people, has gone on for years now, which sounds weird to say but it’s true. It was back in May 2013 that I announced I had an agent, in the form of the incredible Juliet Mushens from The Agency Group. For years getting an agent felt like the impossible mountain I’d never climb, but eventually I managed it by being picked off a slush pile. Also I didn’t realise how important and beneficial it is to have an agent. A champion who believes in you and will fight your corner.

Looking back over the last year I can say the hard work actually began after getting an agent. I also didn’t realise that until I started doing it. First I was working with Juliet to get the book ready to submit to publishers, which took about a year, and then I started all over again with my publisher, Orbit, several times.

As well as editing Battlemage (book 1), this year I’ve spent a good portion of it writing book 2. The title of book 2 will be confirmed soon. We have a proposed title for book 2, and book 3 in fact, but they need to get the nod from the right people, so I can’t mention it yet. When I’ve had time, I’ve also been plotting and makes notes on book 3 which I started writing in November. However, that’s now on hold as my first round of edits have come back on book 2. Learning how to juggle different projects is definitely an important skill to master, and it is one that I’m still working on. It takes me a bit of time to get my brain out of one creative head space and get it back into another. It helps that the books are connected and set in the same world, but there is still an adjustment period. Mine is definitely not a traditional trilogy so that has created its own challenges that I am trying to learn from for the future.

Writing is usually done in isolation, although I know of several authors who write in public places, even so it’s a solitary thing most of the time. Meeting other writers, talking to them and hearing their stories about their struggles, bumps in the road and just generally hearing their experiences has proven to be very helpful. Some of my friends are a few steps further down the road which has been great. It’s prepared me for some of what’s happened in the last year and that I’m not the first person to be faced with various problems and therefore mine are also not insurmountable.

Over the last year in particular I’ve made great friends with some fantastic writers which has given me a real sense of community. There are a lot more challenges ahead, but I am excited, nervous and anxious about what’s to come, which I think is a healthy approach. Roll on 2015.

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Publishing Adventures in London

Earlier this week I had my first official trip to London as a soon to be published author. It was an intense and pretty exhausting time, but overall proved to be fascinating. On Monday morning I visited my fantastic agent, Juliet Mushens, and Sarah, her lovely assistant, at their offices for a chat about the book and the trilogy, my plans and what happens next.

After that it was my first trip to the Orbit offices to meet with my editor, Jenni Hill, for the first time. Orbit have their offices at 100 Victoria Embankment, which is a massive and very impressive building, inside and out. I was nervous about being late, so rather than risk getting lost, I got off the tube and did the sensible thing. I asked the nearest security person at the station how tin find the building. The woman was very kind and patient, as she walked with me to the entrance to the tube station and then pointed at the giant edifice directly across the road. Whoops! I grinned sheepishly and scuttled off.

Over lunch Jenni and I talked about the book, the characters, and really got into a meaty chat about the first book, Battlemage, and how it connects to the others in the trilogy. I think it’s the first time I’ve had a proper discussion about the series and the shape of it with someone who had read the first book. For the longest time characters have just lived inside my head and on the page, but suddenly they were breathing again as we talked about the future and what happened next. I could answer all of the questions but I think it was the first time I’d said some of it aloud to someone else. I probably got a few strange looks from other people in the restaurant but I didn’t notice.

After that I was shown around the Orbit offices and met the rest of the team who were all fabulous and so enthusiastic. With little time to spare I zipped back across London, checked into my hotel, then ran back out again for an early dinner with some friends. The rest of the evening I could just sit back and try to unwind and unclench, as the attention was firmly on Jen Williams (she of the fabulous The Copper Promise fame) and Den Patrick (he of the equally awesome The Boy with The Porcelain Blade). At Blackwells on Charing Cross Road, Jared Shurin was asking the questions and the topics ranged from influences to monsters to magic. There was a great crowd who queued up in the typically polite English fashion to get a copy of each book signed. Technically Porcelain wasn’t out on Monday, but there were a few cheeky copies that had been released early, so I made sure I snagged one and got it signed by Den.

Not long after we adjourned to a local pub for drinks where I nobly battled to stay awake after a long and tiring day. I think I managed fairly well and had a few geeky conversations as well as getting a chance to talk archery with Gillian Redfearn. It wasn’t a late finish, for which I was grateful, and I crashed out in my hotel.

Tuesday morning I was back on the train, headed north again, towards home and also an appointment with a photographer. I think they came out quite well, despite the bags under my eyes and the stubble, but they’re both usually there anyway, so it’s going to be accurate.

It’s quite a few months until my next convention, 9 Worlds in August in London. I’ve settled back into my normal daily routine again, and have got back to work on book 2, but somewhere in the back of my mind I am now aware that other people are talking about the characters from Battlemage, and that they’re waiting to see what I do next in book 2. I also have a deadline for the first time, but so far, very little has changed day to day. I’m sure that will change next year but for now, it’s head down and keep writing.

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Book Deal News

So the big news came out today on the Bookseller website, and here is a copy of the press release in full announcing my book deal with Orbit.

Orbit has signed a trilogy of books from British author Stephen Aryan.

Jenni Hill, commissioning editor at Orbit, signed world English rights in the Battlemage trilogy from Juliet Mushens at The Agency Group.

Battlemage, which was taken from the slush pile, is set in a world experiencing its first global conflict, with the story told from three points of view – the leaders of the fighting nations, the frontline warriors, and the Battlemages, powerful magical outsiders who are both feared and respected.

Mushens said: “I was blown away by how polished a debut this was – it’s original and wholly engrossing.”

Hill said: “Stephen Aryan makes mages look cool. Battlemage has everything that’s great about epic fantasy: big battle scenes; valiant heroes and heroines; and evil forces in need of a damn good thwarting.”

Aryan lives in Yorkshire and works fulltime in marketing for a software company.

Orbit will release the the first in the series in the UK and US in 2015.

I am absolutely over the moon! Orbit publish some of my favourite authors from Jim Butcher to Mike Carey and I’m excited and nervous about what comes next, but really looking forward to it. A lot of hard work has gone into getting here and there is definitely more ahead but I can’t wait to get stuck in.

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