Tag Archives: writing

Other Worlds Event – Sat 6th October

Just a quick post to serve as a reminder that next Saturday, 6th October in Nottingham, I will be taking part in the Other Worlds event at the Nottingham Writers’ Studio.

This is a full day of panels and workshops. The schedule and more information about the event is available on the website here, as well as how to buy tickets for the day.

I’m going to be there from mid-morning and I’m doing a couple of panels and a workshop on Fantasy Worldbuilding, with a special subtitle – Consider the Potato. All will be revealed about what the heck I’m talking about in the workshop which is going to be interactive and hopefully a lot of fun. All you need is a pen and an imagination!

Click here for more information about the event and to book your tickets

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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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On Time Every Time

This post has been bubbling under for a while but it was brought to the forefront of my mind today by a tweet. Someone commented that they wait until the series of books is finished before picking them up in one go because they were shy about starting a series with an unpublished finish. Ok, there’s a lot to chew on there.

First, I’m not picking on this individual as I know it is an attitude shared by some SFF readers. However, it’s actually one that is damaging for writers. Myke Cole sums it up very succinctly here.

It really is that simple. I know binge watching is now common and binge reading is a thing too. There’s nothing wrong with either. So, one person posted a simple and elegant solution if binge-reading is your thing – Buy the books (or pre-order them) on the day they come out and then leave them on the shelf until the series is done. Then you can still binge read the whole lot in one go. There are drawbacks to this approach such as talking and engaging with other readers in the SFF community as the books come out, but I also realise that some SFF readers don’t get involved in conventions or social media. They just buy and read the books in their own time.

The second important point I wanted to raise is the vast majority of SFF published authors deliver their books on time, every time. Yes, there are a few very high profile, very celebrated authors who are behind on their deadlines (we all know who they are and the books in question) but everyone else just gets on with it and delivers their books. And no, this is not a dig at those authors either. The only issue is, some readers then assume that the rest of us will follow suit and it is just not true.

Here’s my current timeline of published books from Orbit :-

Battlemage – September 2015

Bloodmage – April 2016

Chaosmage – October 2016

Mageborn – October 2017

Magefall – September 2018

Mage3 – Sept/Oct 2019 (first draft is written)

Of Gods and Men (novella) – February 2018

That list is not there so I can pat myself on the back. Nor is it a pity party, because while it was difficult to work on the first trilogy of books at the same time, all of them at different stages so they could come out every 6 months, it was and is my dream job and something I’d wanted to do for decades. I also want to stress something because it is very important – writing is my job. This list is there to demonstrate I delivered the books on time, every time.

To that end, I’ve already handed in Mage3, and my deadline is December 2018. I’m now hard at work something new and different, which if all goes to plan, it will be published in 2020, or sooner, who knows. In theory, I could finish the first draft of the brand new book by the end of this year. It’s possible. Again, this is not here for people to pat me on the back. I love writing books. Yes, sometimes the process is difficult and challenging and I’ve written about that in previous blog posts. This isn’t about that. If I don’t hand in the books I don’t get paid and as I’ve said, writing is my job.

How you can help

The bottom line is if you like an author and want to support them – buy their books when they come out (from your local bookshop if possible). If you want to do more, then tell someone else about the book and the author. Word of mouth and personal recommendation from friends are very powerful. Shout about a book on social media if you loved it. If you want to go one step further, write a review and post it somewhere online. Goodreads and Amazon if possible because that will help other people find the books. Even if you didn’t buy the book from Amazon, it is the first port of call for a lot of people and reviews on there matter. Lots of people now have book blogs and vlogs on YouTube. Talking about books on there is another great way to spread the word.

Buy the books. Don’t wait.

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That’s a wrap….for now

The first draft of Mage3 (currently untitled), the third book in the Age of Dread trilogy, has now gone off to my editors at Orbit. So that’s it, I’m done….for the time being at least. In a few months’ time the next round of hard work will begin with edits and so on, but for now, I’m finished.

Looking back I think it will be about 10 years since I first sat down and started writing the first draft of Battlemage. I worked on that book for about 3 years on and off before I finally thought it was ready to submit to an agent. After that there was more work on it with my agent and then the publisher, and then I started work on the subsequent books in the first trilogy, the second trilogy and the novella.

I hate how everything is now ‘a journey’ and I’m not going to say I’ve been on one but these last 5 years in particular have been very interesting. Whenever you enter a new industry there’s always a lot to learn. In my case there was the perception of publishing from an outsider’s view and then I discovered the reality once I sat down with people like my agent, my editor and so on. It’s been eye-opening and thought provoking experience, that’s for sure.

Over the last few years I’ve definitely learned a lot from professionals in the industry but also from other writers. Those who have been in the business longer than me and have more books on the shelves. People have been happy to share their experiences and although everyone’s is unique to some degree there are patterns you can learn from.

When I started trying to get published (many years ago) self publishing was purely a phrase that meant vanity press. Now it’s transformed into something totally different. Many people prefer self publishing. Some have moved from self publishing to more traditional publishing and I know of a few authors who have gone the other way, preferring more freedom and control over all aspects of the process. I also know of a few hybrid authors who do a bit of both. So the landscape has changed dramatically in the last ten years, especially with the growth of ebooks and the internet.

So what’s next? I’ve already got some ideas, but I need to sit down to discuss them with my agent before being able to share any news. I can say that whatever I do next it will not be set in the same world. It will be something different and fresh in a new world. I need a change. That’s not to say I won’t ever come back to the same world, just not right now. I have two very distinct options at the moment but I need to mull them over and talk them through before deciding.

So at the moment I’m having a little bit of a break, I’m going to put my feet up, catch up on all the TV I’ve missed, maybe see a few films and then get back to work. So watch this space for any news!

 

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The Slog

I’ve not done a post about writing in a while and given where I am at the moment it seemed appropriate. This post is going to be all about my experiences with writing novels but this also applies to writers of other long-form projects. This is for all writers, whether you are published are not.

I wanted to talk about the slog. That is the effort to keep going and press on no matter how tired or fed up you are with the book. No matter how much you hate it and think it’s crap. No matter what else is going on in your life with your family, your friends and your day job. No matter what time of year it is as sometimes you want to be outside doing something else, anything else, rather than staring at a screen and writing the damn novel.

I plan my novels. I know the start, middle, end, and milestones. I don’t have every single detail plotted out, otherwise it would be boring to write, as there’s no discovery for me, and therefore boring to read. But with that structure in place the story can’t go off the rails sending me into a dead-end where I have to backtrack, delete a huge chunk of text and start down another track. Been there, done that, never again. Everyone has their own style of story plotting, architect, organic or somewhere in-between. However you approach it you still have to finish the book. And that’s a slog.

Someone recently asked me if the next two novels in my new trilogy, the Age of Dread, would be longer or shorter than the first book, Mageborn. Honestly, I have no idea. I know what the story is but not the final word count. There’s always some flex. Some chapters end up shorter than expected and others longer. Sometimes after scanning the first draft I realise it’s missing a beat here or there on certain characters so I might add in an extra chapter or two. So it really can vary up to a point. Even with all of that planning, and preparation, the toughest part of writing a novel is still getting to the end.

It takes me months and months to write a novel. Anywhere from eight months (my quickest ever) to three years. That’s a lot of time. A lot of evenings and weekends.  A lot of hours. And a lot of time. And it’s tough. It’s tough to focus on the end goal for all of that time. To think, great, when this is over I will have a finished book. So like a marathon runner, I’m always looking ahead to the finish line. Sometimes that’s all that keeps me going and it can be really hard to keep writing. (I’m not even going to touch on what happens after the first draft, that’s for another day).

The grind of it can be mentally and physically exhausting. I’m not going to compare writing novels to the difficulty of other jobs, like being a doctor, nurse, police officer or school teacher. They are all very difficult jobs. This isn’t a competition or a game. But that doesn’t mean writing novels isn’t difficult in its own way. I write because I love it and it’s my job and it also helps pay the bills. I was writing for years before I was published, many years in fact, producing novel after novel. I just kept going because I had to and I needed to write. Would I still be writing novels if I wasn’t published? Absolutely. It’s who I am. It’s what I do. If you think this post is me moaning about writing, or a pity party, you need to go back and reread it from the start. This is about the slog. This is about stamina.

Writing novels requires effort. It means digging down inside yourself and bringing forth an idea into the real world. Ideas are easy. Everyone has ideas. Hundreds every day. Turning that idea, for whatever it is, into a real finished thing is the hard part. How many people say they are going to write a novel but never actually do it? Tens of thousands is my guess, if not many more.

Writing means exposing a part of your mind to strangers who will then hold it up to the light and scrutinise it. Writing means readers will go through what you’ve been working on for months or years in a matter of hours or days. Writing a review can take 30 seconds and if you do read reviews, which I don’t think is healthy, they can be quite unpleasant, especially after everything you’ve poured into the project. No one sets out to write a bad novel.

I’m often asked if at this point, working on book 6, it gets any easier, and the answer is no. It should never be easy because I’m still working hard every time on every book. If it was easy then it means I’m phoning it in and not really putting in much effort. I wrangle with dialogue and rewrite it over and over. I worry about characters arcs and their development. I worry that I’m just stuffing in too much exposition or  world building that will bore people and slow down the pacing. I work hard to create satisfying stories with complex characters that feel real and relatable. I worry because I care about the book, every single time.

Getting to the end of that book and finishing it requires a lot of internal fortitude. A lot of stamina and it is a real slog of will. So. If you’ve made it this far, and you’re working on a novel, your first or fifteenth, it doesn’t really matter, know that you’re not alone and that there are many writers out there that are going through exactly the same thing as you.

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MCM London Comic Con this weekend

MCM London Comic ConThe title says it all really. This weekend I will be attending the MCM London Comic Con alongside some other fantastic fantasy and science fiction authors.

The event is 3 days but my fellow authors and I will be appearing on panels and doing signings on Saturday and Sunday. After each panel there will be a signing with books for sale in the room for all of the authors appearing on each panel.

Apparently, as well as authors, there are some other guests attending the event! Who knew? People like Anthony Mackie, Hayley  Atwell, Manu Bennett, David Bradley, Andrew Scott, Julian Glover, three of the boys from Red Dwarf…the list goes on and on. There’s going to be tonnes of cosplay, comics, Marvel have a big presence there this year, video games, manga, the list goes on and on.

In May this year at the event they had a footfall of something like 110K people over the three days making it the biggest convention in the UK. I wonder if they will exceed that number this weekend?

Check out the Author corner for the full list of authors attending and keep an eye out for the panel schedule in the Platinum suite. See you there, and if not, next month I’m in Derby at Sledge-Lit on Saturday 25th November, but more info on that soon.

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And that’s a wrap

Just a short post to say the first draft of book 5,  (well book 2 in the new Age of Dread trilogy), is done.

The first draft is raw, rough and it still needs a lot of work, but the main framework of the story is now done. I’ve had this story in my head for over a year and it’s taken me months and months to gradually shape the idea into a real thing. It’s changed a bit, despite planning it ahead of time, and I’ve already got a few things in mind I need to revise before anyone sees it. Then once I’m relatively happy with it I will send it on to my editors.

I know it is going to be edited several times and I’m going to be revising this text for the next year or so, but even so I want to get this current version to a comfortable state. There are a number of things I need to fix. Namely writing tics. Things I’ve realised I’ve started to develop, and some I didn’t even know I was doing but have been pointed out by other people. They’re crutches or cliches I might use too often so I’m going to file them off for starters. Other things are part of the plot that already stick out like a sore thumb. Polish the dialogue to make it more natural. There’s a list.

Now is actually the best time to do this, because once it goes into the publishing process I’m on much tighter deadlines, and working on the next book, so my focus is split. I’m ahead of my deadline at the moment so I have time to knuckle down and sort it now. Hopefully by doing so it will pay off later when I get my first set of editorial notes back on this new book. That’s the plan anyway.

Once this goes off to the publisher it’s back to fleshing out my notes for book 6 and then the hard work of a first draft begins again! No rest for the wicked and all that.

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Writing questions for April

This is going to be a short post with some questions that I’m hoping those of you who are following this blog, and anyone else who sees it, will respond to as it will give me a better idea of who is reading this, and also, why. I have a feeling that a lot of people who pop in here are writers, but I will see what the results show.

Questions

1.  With so much information out there now readily available via the internet on blogs, vlogs, social media, author websites, as well as attending events and courses, are there any parts of the publishing process that are still a mystery? And if so, which parts?

2. Are you a writer aiming to, one day, get published? And if so, how far along are you with your current work in progress?

3. Are you struggling with a particular part of the writing process? If so, which part?

4.  If you’re not an aspiring writer, are you  fan of fantasy? Science fiction? Both?

That’s it, short and sweet. Let me know in the comments.

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Win an early signed copy of Chaosmage

Chaosmage Stephen AryanI’ve received a few early copies of Chaosmage from my publisher, Orbit. It’s not officially published for a few weeks (Oct 12) so I’m going to run a simple competition.

The winner will be chosen at random and I will sign and personalise a copy of Chaosmage and post it to you, anywhere in the world. This is open to anyone internationally.

In order to enter the competition, all you need to do is donate some money to the following charity, Leeds Cat Rescue, via PayPal, or if that link doesn’t work, visit their Facebook page here – where there is a PayPal link on the right hand column – and send me proof via email (stephenaryan56[AT]gmail.com)

How much you donate is up to you. Amounts will not be posted anywhere and no-one will know except me. The money will be used to help the charity, which is run by volunteers, to rehome and care for cats and kittens. They are also trying to raise money for special equipment for critical care.

For whoever is the most generous, I will also send out a signed full set of the whole trilogy.

If you are unable to use Paypal, then as an alternative you could buy something from their Amazon wishlist here, and again let me know via email.

Deadline for entries is midnight Wednesday 21st September. Any questions in the meantime let me know.

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Bloodmage tour roundup

I’m back from my UK tour for Bloodmage, the second book in the Age of Darkness trilogy.

The first stop was Sheffield, which was a lot of fun. Samuel, and the other staff at Waterstones Orchard Square, had arranged some coffee and nibbles and after rushing to get there, I was ready for a drink and some cake. There were a few writers in the audience so a lot of the questions were around how to get published, finding an agent, working with a publisher and so on. There was still plenty of time for a reading and to sign a few books.

After Sheffield I went to Middlesbrough where Niel Bushnell and I had a great discussion about our different routes to getting published. It was also a good opportunity for us to catch up as I’d not seen Niel since last year at another event. We shared some more tips about writing and getting published and explored some of the different options that are available today, compared with only a few years ago.

The last stop was my home town of Whitley Bay, where I grew up. I’d not been back in a few years and before the event I had some time to explore what had changed and was what the same since my last visit. Many thanks to everyone at the library for their support and for everyone who braved the awful weather to come and see me.

My presentation about my writing and my journey to getting published was very popular and I received a lot of positive comments. Even more popular was the fantastic Battlemage cake that my friend, Katie, had made for me. It was also chocolate cake, which is my favourite, and at one point I almost didn’t get a piece as it was rapidly disappearing. Overall it was a tiring but enjoyable book tour.

It’s only six months until Chaosmage is here and I start all over again. So let me know if you want me to come and visit a bookshop near you next time.

Battlemage Cake - Whitley Bay 2016

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