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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Thank Book For podcast with…Stephen Aryan

Thank Book For Podcast Normally I’m the one recording the podcasts and interviewing the guests. This time it was my turn to be a guest on the Thank Book For podcast with Tom Bissell and Gemma Todd.

Listen here to find all of the episodes.

We had a lot of fun recording this and there was a lot of chat off mic as well which could have gone on for hours.

In this episode we talk about some of my favourite books, writing in general, different styles of writing, comics, films and remakes, and guilty pleasures.

Listen to my episode here

 

Book 3 is away…

It is getting close to  the end of February and it’s time for another quick update. I’ve been pretty quiet on here and haven’t written a new post in a while as I’ve had my nose to the grindstone. The copy edit for book 3 came in and it was two and a bit weeks of solid graft, in addition to the day job. But it is now done and has gone off to the publisher. Phew. So, that means there is only one more stage of checking, when I get the proof, before it then becomes an ARC (advanced read copy). Soon after that the book comes out!

Is it still a dark art?

Thinking about the copy edit and then the final proof stage it made me wonder, is there any mystery left to the publishing process? By that I mean, if you are reading this, and you are an aspiring author, do you know what all the stages are that a book goes through before it is published with a traditional publisher? Is there any bit that you don’t understand?

Obviously the process is different if it is digital or self published. I am curious, with so many authors, and people within the industry, now talking about much of what seemed like a dark art to me online, is it all clear now?

Let me know as I’m very curious. Not only about this, but I also still see so many posts, articles and YouTube videos about how to get published and how to approach an agent, and they are full of bad and unhelpful information.

So, I’m now pondering what next, writing some short stories, focusing on some comic book projects and scribbling ideas for the next big thing. Also I’m catching up on some TV I missed the first time around, plus other stuff I’ve never seen. All of which is me trying to relax.

February worklog

I thought I would do a quick post about what I’m up to at the moment on various things.

So, book 2, Bloodmage, is completely done and dusted. My publisher, Orbit books, has just sent me the latest version of the cover and I think it looks really good. So that is all set to come out in April.

In about a week’s time the copy edits on book 3, currently untitled, will be coming back to me. I’ve then got a couple of weeks to turn it around and send it back to the publisher. After that, a few weeks later, I get a physical proof.

So at the moment I have a window of time where I’m not writing. I won’t lie. It’s weird. After doing it all the time, almost every day, to suddenly not be working on a novel seems odd.

Not writing at all doesn’t sit right with me, so I’m writing down notes for the next big thing. In theory it will be a new trilogy, but it is very early days, so that might change. In the meantime I’m also working on what is currently a novelette, but depending on how long it runs, it might turn into a novella. It’s set in the same world as the Age of Darkness, and it shines the light on a couple of characters. It is an interesting side adventure they went on together. Chronologically it’s set before Battlemage, so it doesn’t spoil anything, but if you’ve read book 1 already then there are pay-offs.

I’ve just finished doing an Author roundtable Q and A over at SFF World which you can read here. The questions were mostly about process  and more general as there were three of us.

The comic book projects roll on. Flux, co-written with Pete Rogers is going well. We’ve just finished the Issue 3 script (out of 4) and we’re fairly happy with it. Artwork for issue 2 is still coming in and we’re going to start working on Issue 4, and extra content soon. I’ve also got about nine ideas written down for some other mini series and am having trouble deciding what to pursue next. I think a bit of a head to head Skype chat with Pete is what is required.

The podcasting is still going well. I have monthly chats with Scott for CBO and the same with Pete for Bags of Action, where we talk action movies. Later this month I’ll be doing face to face podcasts with both of them, which will be weird, as you learn certain rhythms when doing it over the internet. Seeing the person talk is just odd. Pete and I recently saw Creed, so we’ll be talking about that very soon for Bags. We’re both big fans of the Rocky franchise so it will be an interesting discussion.

Soon I’ll be announcing some events in the UK for the launch of Bloodmage in April, so keep checking back. The first of these as gone up already on the Events page, and I will add more when confirmed. I suspect I’ll be attending a couple of conventions this year but I’m not sure where or when yet. Pie in the sky idea for 2017 is to attend NYCC in October, but right now it’s just a cool idea. Let’s see if it actually happens.