Risky Writing

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Professionally writing is a risky business. 

Professionally writing novels is a risky business. Creating a massive, 70,000 word literary journey is a serious undertaking. It requires a lot of sacrifice and no small amount of risk. You first sacrifice time and energy, basically all of both, for a undetermined period. Some authors take a few months to complete their first draft, some take many months, and some even stray into years. While writing you must keep your work close to you, for losing momentum can be deadly to your manuscript and you need the fictional world and characters fresh in your mind. While writing you must hold onto the same emotions that are captured within your book, day in and day out. While writing you must actually work in order to finish the draft, showing up everyday, even when you’re sick or tired or randy, and writing.  

And after all of that–let’s be kind and say you finished in just three months–you’ve only finished the FIRST DRAFT! And the first draft always sucks! You have another four months ahead of you before just the first chapter is presentable. Maybe about four to six more months from there before you have an acceptable draft. Not a good draft, mind you, not a successful draft as far as publishers are concerned, but an acceptable one. And keep in mind, that’s if you’re putting in at least two hours of writing/editing each and every day. No off days for you. 

All that sacrifice. All that work. Is it worth it? Well, that’s where the risk comes in. What if, after all of that, you produce something that the market is already saturated with? What if no one buys it? What if you end up sitting on it for years? What if the few people who have read it don’t like it? What if you experience rejection unlike anything you’ve ever felt before? What if, after all of that, you really produced something poor and unwanted?

That risk, you see, is what separates professional writers from amateur ones. Professional writers make the sacrifice and take the risk, amateur ones don’t. It’s essentially that simple. Are you willing to sacrifice all your free time, months or maybe even years of your life? Are you willing to risk all of that time and energy with the possibility that it could all be for nothing? 

If you say yes, then you might be a writer. And if you are, God help you. God help us all. 

You see, I have been making choices in my writing career that were avoiding risk, that were looking to make the smallest sacrifice possible, and then I was wondering why I felt unfulfilled and stagnant. I was making choices out of fear, afraid of risking too much for too little. Afraid of making large scale sacrifices for an abstraction of the future. 

But no longer. 

Professionally writing is a risky business. When you understand that, you can prepare yourself for the long haul and fill up your tool box with all you’ll need to succeed. 

So take those chances with your writing. Make those big sacrifices. You won’t make it professionally any other way. 

Darksaber

We’re taking it back to 1995 with this week, folks. Another forgotten classic of the Star Wars EU that outshines anything from the new canon, this In My Opinion review is about Darksaber, by Kevin J Anderson.

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Darksaber is part of the Jedi Academy Trilogy, a New York Times Bestselling series written by the ridiculously prolific Kevin J Anderson. This novel reads like a standalone, but also does a good job carrying a larger story through it all. This novel came at a time when Star Wars fans were still shunned from the majority of society, long before any whispers of Episode I began. Which is why it’s so special. It comes from a time when Star Wars was shaped, not by George Lucas, but by the writers who were playing in his universe. Writers like Timothy Zahn, Aaron Alliston, and Kevin J Anderson were the gods of the Star Wars universe then, and their words were what fans stayed up night after night reading and rereading. Therefore, when this novel was written it had a lot weighing on it. It needed to be a good read. 

The good news is, it most certainly is a good read. It gives off the same feelings, preserves the same values, and totes the same feel-good humor the original trilogy of Star Wars movies had. Kevin J Anderson does not disappoint. But then again, look at him. How can he disappoint?

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Just look at that glorious, word-weaving bastard. God bless him.

PLOT: There’s a lot going on here plot-wise, but the premise is so good it’s hard to forget any of it. Druga the Hutt, a crimelord who’s stepped into the vacancy left by Jabba, is finally putting his considerable wealth and greed to work. First, he gets his hands on the Death Star plans. Then he gets his hands on the engineer who built the Death Star. Next, he builds a Death Star. But not a gaudy, moon-sized thing. All Durga wants is the laser, the most powerful super-laser in the galaxy, so he can hold entire planets hostage for ransom. Meanwhile, the de-facto leader of the Empire is marshaling her troops for an attack on the infantile Republic. There are even more plots, actually, each weaving into each other to tell a masterful tale. Each scene unfolds as its own story. 

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Durga, the slimiest, low-lifeiest Hutt of ’em all.

 

SETTING: Anderson, a learned scholar of sci-fi, really flexed his creative and imaginative muscles in this novel. Anything that was inconsequential to the main plot he seemed to take liberties with in order to make the story a unique sci-fi experience. Aspects of space-yachts and interplanetary casino gaming that have never been seen before popped up for the first time in this novel, thanks to good ol’ Anderson. He still manages to capture the essence of each familiar planet and setting from the movies, making readers squeal with delight when they find themselves in memorable places. But I love Anderson’s ability to bring in new elements of sci-fi never before seen to a long running sci-fi series, keeping it fresh and new. 

CHARACTERS: So, so, so, so good. The old favorites are always close at hand; Luke, Leia, Han and the rest. But the new characters are who really take the stage. There is a character in this novel whom I will never forget. I truly wish Disney and the story group at Star Wars decided to make this novel into a movie, or at least this character. His name is Bevel Lemelisk, and he’s the engineer who designed and oversaw construction of both Death Stars. But Bevel didn’t create the moons of doom by choice. You see, when he first disobeyed the Emperor, the Emperor killed him. Had him eaten alive by beetles, actually. But just before Bevel’s last breath, the Emperor transferred Bevel’s consciousness into a clone. A clone who happened to be watching its original self die. Once Bevel was safe in his new body, the Emperor would give him an order, and if Bevel didn’t obey, he would be killed and cloned again. And again. And again. And again, until he finally did obey. 

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Daaaaaaaaaamn!

How crazy is that? Bevel is one of the most unique characters I’ve ever read, because he’s died at least twenty times. His mind, his memories, his inner monologues… are so interesting. 

VERDICT: If you’re reading this, I imagine you’re a Star Wars fan. So, if you’re a Star Wars fan you should totally read this book. If you’re not a Star Wars fan but want to know what damn good sci-fi writing is, read this book. If you’re a hater, don’t read this book. If you have no imagination, don’t read this book. In my opinion this book should’ve been made into a movie long ago. If Disney is focused on making Star Wars profitable, this right here is how you do it. 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

This week I’ll be talking about a more light-hearted novel intended for a younger audience. But don’t let that alone turn you away from this mysterious and oddly enrapturing tale. This week I’m discussing Randal Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

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Now, unless you haven’t ventured into a book store or movie theater in years, you’ve probably already heard of this story before. It received a lot of attention when first published, is part of a larger series now, and has a movie adapted from it (which sucks!). But perhaps you’re wondering what all the hub-bub is about for a book with a levitating girl on the cover, yes? Allow me to whet your appetite. 

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Our protagonist is a 15–soon to be 16–year old boy who lives in Englewood, Florida. He’s grown up with parents, a best friend, aunts and uncles, but his favorite person of all is his grandfather. His grandfather tells stories about when he was younger, the odd boarding house he stayed in, and the war he fought in, all with pictures to back it up. But after Jacob’s grandfather dies, rather violently, Jacob is thrust into a past that is also his future but certainly not the present. He’s thrown into a not-so-typical YA adventure plot that takes him all over the world, and all through time. 

PLOT: The overarching plot of this story is almost painfully obvious. By the end of the 2nd chapter I was already calling what the end would be, what the next twist was, who the ultimate antagonist was, etc. The main parts of the story are so obviously foreshadowed, they’re telegraphed. It’s hard NOT to anticipate what will happen next. At least for the main story. But each character’s development, how they interacted, and where some of them ended up I couldn’t predict. Bottom line: this feels like one of the first times Randal Riggs wrote out a full novel and plotted it. The hallmarks, the pacing, the markers signalling the next phase of the plot; they’re all too new, as if Riggs doesn’t have much experience with them. But one of the coolest features of this book are the photos. Riggs searched high a low for all kinds of creepy photos to use for his book, and he did an excellent job. Even if you don’t read it, flip through the book sometime. The photos alone will intrigue you.

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CHARACTERS: These characters were quite good. Each was encapsulated in their own personalities and traits. Their dialogue was, for the most part, very natural. Their interactions with each other felt authentic and not forced, again, for the most part. The antagonists were good, as well. They weren’t full blown evil, which is what I was hoping for, but they had believable motivations and strengths. I also enjoyed each character’s story. While there is the larger, general story of the novel that links all events together, each character seemed to have their own purpose/story to tell within the larger story. And they did so brilliantly. 

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SETTING: I give the settings and their descriptions a thumbs up. Though at times I noticed another feature of a first time author: over description. One thing newer writers tend to do, and I’ve done this myself A LOT, is to over describe their settings. As the author, they have the mental image of what they want the reader to see in their mind. When they write, they try to describe that mental image as much as possible, clarifying as many things as they can. They want the reader’s mental image to reflect their mental image in perfection, so they explain every minute detail about a place, boring the reader and taking up 3 whole pages. The sign of an experienced, well-published author is that they can sum up a setting’s description, wholly and completely, in a few sentences, if not one sentence. It’s certainly not easy, but it makes your writing stand apart. 

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MISCELLANEOUS: Before I drop my verdict I wanted to highlight two other aspects of this writing: Style and adaptation. The writing style of this novel was, and I can’t stress this enough, fantastic. Yes, the content and story had negatives, but there was something about Riggs’ style of writing that captured me. I read this book in less than a week, and not because I was invested in the story. When looking at this book you would not be wrong in assuming it’s for young adults. But the vocabulary, sentence structure, and inner monologues were definitely not for young adults. I was, and still am, very impressed with the writing style. Now, adaptation, which deals strictly with the movie. The movie for this novel is a horrible, no good, awful excuse at adaptation. Yes, Eva Green (Miss Peregrine’s actress) is an incredibly attractive actress (and I mean, incredibly attractive).

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And yes, Samuel Jackson (the antagonist) is always a crowd favorite.

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Heck, even Dame Judy Dench is in this movie! But even with those A-list actors the movie is a steaming pile of donkey dung. Please remember: avoid movie at all costs. AVOID

VERDICT: You read all of my criteria? You stuck around all the way to the end of the review? Good. Then you already know what I’m going to say. In my opinion, you should read this novel. It’s not going to take you long, the combination of exciting action and good writing will help you finish it in no time. You’re on your own if you wish to explore the rest of the series, though. But we should all be able to agree that this first novel, at least, is a fantastic read. 

Sharp Ends

Turn away now if you’re squeamish, read a different article if you have a weak stomach. For this In My Opinion review I’ll be talking about another gruesome, dark creation of Joe Abercrombie, Sharp Ends

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Joe Abercombie sprang onto the dark fantasy scene with his First Law Trilogy, which was so widely received that it turned into the First Law Series. That series, which capped at 6 books, was so voraciously accepted by fans that he’s now extending the series and has written this delightful anthology to accommodate his readers. In the beginning of this book he thanks fellow authors for pushing (and paying) him to create more tales within his universe.

Abercrombie uses these short stories to fill in the gaps his epic novels may have missed. They flesh out some aspects of the world that have not been visited before, and they answer some of the fan’s burning questions. Some stories follow beloved characters that readers have grown to know and love, others introduce new characters who are world-changers in their own respective corners, and still others are one time protagonists, here for one mere story and never spoken of again. A large portion of this book relied on nostalgia factor, so if you’ve not read any other part of this series before, I wouldn’t recommend it to you.

PLOT: For the most part each short story follows a different perspective in a different part of the world. The reader jumps around a lot. But there are a few characters who continually pop up and who actually tell a loose story. I was quite impressed by how Abercrombie was able to tell such pregnant, thoughtful stories in so few pages. In some stories he would stay in one character’s POV the entire time, others he’d be jumping around from solider to soldier to witness to victim. l was more impressed by the diversity than anything else. This anthology takes you to twice as many places as any of Abercrombie’s novels.

SETTING: One thing I noticed in a few of the stories was that Abercrombie relies on his nostalgia factor for setting descriptions more than anything else. Since he’s already taken readers on adventures to these places before, he doesn’t describe them as fully as he would in his novels, and I found myself having to refer back to memory rather than description in some places. Still, the new places that he introduces for the first time in this anthology he does a great job, as always, of summing them up in succinct, all-encompassing and often humorous descriptions for the reader. He shows us lots of new places in the north, the east, and at the edges of the world.

CHARACTERS: Solid. Strong. By that I don’t mean that every character was a strong character, but that Abercrombie’s telling of them was strong and captivating. He brings the reader fully into a new character’s mind in a matter of sentences, not paragraphs, and certainly not pages like many other authors. In a few, quick sentences he can encapsulate all a character is and offer that up to the reader, who is then drawn even deeper into the story. Yes, he did use some characters previously known to the readers like a trump card, showcasing his brand. Nostalgia factor again. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get excited when they showed up on the scene. And besides, after creating such unforgettable character I think he has the right to throw them around exactly as he did. 

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VERDICT: This is a great read. Joe Abercrombie, as always, delivers fantastic stories with even more fantastic characters and doesn’t lack for much. This is just another example of his already impressive skills. Yes, his writing style took me a bit to get used to in the beginning, but now I accept it and and it’s quick prose and enjoy its uniqueness. However, in my opinion you shouldn’t read this if you’ve not read anything else from the First Law Series. You’ll still enjoy lots of the stories, the majority of them even, but you’ll miss out on so many significant aspects of themes and character inspiration. You like dark fantasy that’s witty, real and leaves you always, always wanting more? Than read the first book of the First Law Trilogy, then come back to this. In my opinion

Star Wars: Soldier for the Empire

The Star Wars EU is so large, it’s almost unending. To me and my fellow story lovers, that’s not a bad thing. The EU contains some of the best characters available in Star Wars. Period. And it just so happens that one of those characters is featured in today’s In My Opinion Review.

Ladies, gentlemen, Rodians, I present to you Star Wars: Solider for the Empire by William Dietz.

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Life As A Writer

The other day I went to a local restaurant where the people know me as a regular. As I paid for my meal the cashier asked me, “Hey, so what do you do for a living anyway?” And instead of proudly proclaiming, “I, sir, am I writer! A wordsmith, a stringer of sentences, a paragon of paragraphs!” I sort of blanked. I chuckled to myself and eventually told the person, “I am actually a writer.” As if I couldn’t believe it myself.

You know you're a writer when... - Writers Write Creative Blog: Continue reading “Life As A Writer”

Interview with Author Randal Greene

A short while ago I met a fellow budding author named Randal Eldon Greene who was just starting off his journey into the big bad world of publishing.

Just look at that handsome devil

He was kind enough to offer some support and encouragement on my writing earlier this year, and now that his writing is being published I wanted to help support him in return. His first book, titled Descriptions of Heaven, has finally been released and is available through his site here, or on the mighty Amazon here.

Spoiler Alert: It’s a good book

One of the ways I wanted to help Randal was by pimping out his story to my followers and helping readers get to know him a little better. Randal graciously agreed to answer some questions for a short interview.

Continue reading “Interview with Author Randal Greene”