Every writer loves to read, so here are ten of my favorite books in no particular order and, yes, there’s even a kids one in there, too.
There are others, but this is enough for now.
1) Dreamcatcher by Stephen King
2) Batman: Knightfall by Dennis O’Neil
3) Stone of Tears by Terry Goodkind
4) Voice of the Fire by Alan Moore
5) The Chamber by John Grisham
6) The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
7) The Long Walk by Richard Bachman
8) George’s Marvelous Medicine by Roald Dahl
9) The Death and Life of Superman by Roger Stern
10) Batman: No Man’s Land by Greg Rucka
There are days in this business where things get tough and you wonder why even bother with all this stuff? It doesn’t matter how successful you are. Every writer hits that wall of “what’s the point?” and then has to deal with it. Then stuff like this comes into your inbox and you’re reminded your work isn’t just about you and there are people out there who genuinely care about what you do.
Below is a piece of fan art from Axiom-man superfan Movies, Comics, and MTG. Below that is a video he made about Axiom-man and the upcoming Axiom-man/Auroraman: Frozen Storm Kickstarter.
A special thank you to Movies, Comics, and MTG for these. They made my day at a time when I needed a boost.
For some reason I’ve recently been giving a lot of thought to my writing process and I came to the conclusion I don’t really have one. At least, not in the conventional sense when someone thinks about how an author writes a book. Usually it involves notions of slaving away over the words, crafting each sentence to perfection, doing rewrite after rewrite, line editing, copy editing, proofing and so forth.
None of that applies to me. Not in that sort of depth, anyway.
My first book, A Stranger Dead, and from what I recall, involved a lot of that: slaving away over each word. Being a first book and first effort, that’s how I thought book writing was done. And, hey, if that’s how you write your books, by all means, whatever works, right?
But for me, I’ve been following the same writing process for at least a decade. It’s bare-bones simple, and doesn’t require a lot of brain power other than the first draft, and even then, I’m not exhausting my mental energy to the point of being brain dead after a writing session.
Though there are exceptions, this is typically how I write a book:
– A title or basic premise comes to me
– I let it stew in the back of my head so my subconscious can work things out without me consciously thinking about them
– The first line of the story comes to mind
– I get to work on the first draft
On the first draft:
I’ve only outlined a book once, and that book is still in process as of this writing. I will also be outlining another book to finish it off because it involves time travel and I got myself into a possible paradoxical mess with the thing so I need to iron out the details so it’s paradox-free (something that’s very important when writing time travel stories). Other than that, I simply write a book as it comes to me, scene by scene, sentence by sentence, word by word. I don’t think about what I’m writing. I just write it as I see it in my head and that’s it. I’ve written enough books over the years to know the golden rule that every word needs to serve the story, so I don’t have to worry about scenes being cut later because they’re just fluff.
And that’s it. I write the story start to finish and do not edit as I go along.
Sometimes I know how it’s going to end, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes when I do know how it’s going to end—and since I let the story tell itself—that ending either doesn’t happen or doesn’t happen how I originally envisioned it. But whatever. I let the story do the talking, not me.
After the first draft is done, I run a spellcheck and print it out.
I leave the book alone for a while, sometimes a week, sometimes a month, then get to work on the second draft.
On the second draft:
By leaving the book alone, I had a chance to mentally distance myself from it before going at it with fresh eyes.
You see, you write and read at different speeds, so while taking my pen to my first draft, I read it at a reader’s rate and am able to smooth out choppy sentences or catch words I repeat—every writer has a go-to word or phrase in their first draft—and make sure story continuity lines up. It’s this latter point that always astonishes me: the way your subconscious keeps track of everything between writing sessions and keeps the story in order. I might add a sentence or two or delete a couple redundancies. Nothing fancy.
I then type up my second draft edits and print the book out again for draft three.
On the third draft:
This is the polish draft, and after having done a solid clean-up on it in draft two, this draft is a way to catch anything I missed the first time and do a spit shine on it. Seldom are any substantial changes made. Again, it’s done at reader’s rate so I just read along and tweak things here and there.
These changes are typed up and the book goes off to my editor.
I wait for the editor to do what I pay him for then get the book back from him.
On the editor’s draft:
At this point I’m already getting sick of my own story after having been through it three times, so all I do during this phase is go through my editor’s edits and only his edits. I agree with 95% of them; the remaining 5% are usually matters of taste and preference and not actual errors.
My editor’s work is now complete. He gets paid, and all he has to do is await his editor’s copy in the mail when it’s ready.
I take the editor’s draft and do a three-quarter format on the book.
On the partially-formatted book:
The book is now resembling what the reader will eventually see in terms of layout and trim size. Chapter headings are decorated and basic front and back matter are put in place. The only thing that’s really missing are the headers and footers.
I print it out.
Since I consider my editor’s draft draft number four, this partially-formatted book is my fifth and final draft in which I go through it and catch anything my editor or I might’ve missed. What’s helpful about this stage is the new layout of the book. There are less words per line at a 6 x 9” trim size than your standard 8.5 x 11” piece of paper. Things read differently and any error seems to jump out all the clearer.
These mistakes are fixed and are typed into the computer.
I then go on to finish the book with its final bells and whistles.
On the bells and whistles:
These include adding the headers and footers, the title cards and any ad matter in the back.
At this stage, it’s just an issue of making sure all the formatting is in place, and the book itself is done.
Paperback formatting is always done first, then the various eBook formatting required for the different platforms comes after.
On the off-chance I catch a mistake while formatting, I then have to sort through the different files and make the change in each. It’s annoying and a pain but has to be done.
Then that’s it. It’s off to press.
Of course, during the preliminary format I get my page count thus can create my cover, but that’s not the topic of this post.
But that’s my process. Five total drafts, four of which are mine.
A long time ago a writer friend gave me the greatest bit of publishing advice I’ve ever received. I’ve repeated it a bunch of times to writers in all sorts of forums and venues over the years, and it’s this: it’s only a book. And that’s how I treat my novels: they’re only books. That’s all they are. They’re stories. They’re fantasies. They’re entertainment. Like I always say, kingdoms won’t rise and fall based on something I’ve written so I’m long past the stage of obsessing over my stories.
I just write the damn thing, clean it up, then share it with you.
Instead of doing the usual writer shtick of announcing what projects are coming out and when, I’m simply going to announce them as I complete them.
There are only three confirmed titles coming from me in 2017 thus far. They have already been announced on this blog, but I will mention them again and mention why I know they are guaranteed to be released.
The Canister X Transmission: Year Three – This is being written week-to-week and, like Years One and Two, the collections have been published within a couple of months of that newsletter’s year having ended.
Untitled Flash Fiction Collection – This is part of the Year Three experience, so each week a new piece of flash fiction is sent out to readers. A total of 60 pieces of flash fiction will comprise this collection–52 from the weekly newsletter, a 53rd from the collected edition of the newsletter–and the remainder to be written afterward.
Axiom-man and Auroraman: Frozen Storm – This is a novel I will be writing for a kickstarter project that begins in March. Since it’s being kickstarted, and assuming Auroraman creator Jeff Burton and I hit our goal, this book will be published on time for backers.
Regarding Secret Project No. 1 and Secret Project No. 3–projects mentioned in my newsletter–they will be announced upon completion. What about Secret Project No. 2, you ask? Since it ties directly into Secret Project No. 1, I can’t say anything about it just yet.
As for other works in various stages of finishing, same deal: they will be announced upon completion.
Commit to nothing.
I have also restructured my 2017 on-line marketing efforts and just today finished automating the whole year. There will be some manual posts but the rest will be the social media bots doing my bidding.
Note: This post was originally published on Jeffrey Allen Davis’s blog
Take Up Your Pen Daily and Follow Me
There are two kinds of writers when it comes to the Christian camp: those who are Christian authors and those who are authors that are Christian. The former is the writer who deliberately writes Christian fiction, stories with a Christian message and often with Christian characters. The latter is the writer who writes stories from a Christian worldview but doesn’t overtly share their faith via the stories they tell.
I’m in the latter camp, though I have ventured into the first. The reason I’m in the latter is because—just the way my writing career started and has gone—my story ideas tend to fall in the secular category in terms of concept and execution as opposed to me sitting down and purposefully writing a story with a Christian message.
Science fiction, fantasy, horror, superheroes—these are my genres. I’m a huge nerd and always have been. And while true there is such a thing as Christian speculative fiction, my characters tend to be your secular every-man instead of hardcore believers. I have written obvious Christian characters in the past, but doing so brings up a problem because if indeed a truly born-again Christian writer is going to write a truly born-again Christian character, he/she knows they need to be accurate in their portrayal of what a Christian really is. Simply writing a religious character, though that can have its merits, is a disservice from the Christian worldview because our aim is to convey truth as it is, not what man has made it out to be.
In my work, I tend to provide Christian ideals via my secular characters while also showcasing their flaws and even, in some cases, their lack of religious conviction. Things like hope, love, perseverance, self-discipline and so on—items most of humanity agrees are good things, though all have root in Christian-Judeo teaching—are prevalent in my characters. I’ve found that if I make a truly Christian character, it tends to, at this stage in my career, be a stifle on showing a character’s humanity. To clarify, in Christian circles we are well aware that we all have faults big and small, but to the outside world, the image of a Christian is one who is righteous ninety-nine percent of the time. If that person screws up while preaching righteousness, then suddenly they’re a hypocrite and the reader has lost all faith in them. We see this in real life almost daily. I find it’s better given my particular stories to have characters with Christian traits as opposed to being outright religious.
That’s not to say Christian characters can’t be well done, but on the whole, most of the time the Christian author is preaching to the choir and, well, have fun trying to interest a secular person into reading your stuff. No one likes being preached to, even Christians in some cases.
However, my personal Christian sensibilities have informed my fiction starting late 2005 and onward. While there were glimpses of it before, in terms of story choices and presentation, there’s a certain code of conduct I have to follow and I believe these fall into three main areas: language, sex and violence.
On language: Some of my very early work had a lot of cursing. Just where I was at at the time. As I continued writing and my heart changed, choice words were removed from my output and instead I found ways to not use bad words. Sometimes a simple, “He swore,” is enough. Other times I challenged myself to write around cursing as, to me, cussing in writing is lazy writing. I’m sure we can debate this but it seems it takes more creativity to come up with other ways to display disgust instead of four-letter words. I’m not talking about using lame soft words like “darnnit” and “oh fudge.” I’m talking about showing a character’s anger or disgust at a situation via their actions and accompanying phrases via creative writing instead of just throwing in a swear word. True, people in real life cuss all the time and, for the secular reader, such language doesn’t offend them. I get that from a let’s-go-for-realism point-of-view, but I can’t see how an author claiming to be Christian can include choice phrases and then preach righteousness off the page.
Interestingly, I also have a flipside argument that is pro language in books, even from Christian writers. Before you call me a heretic, here me out. You have to ask yourself, what is a swear word? Why are some words dirtier than others? If you look at cursing over the course of human history, it’s gone through a lot of iterations. Long ago, instead of telling someone to blank-off, you’d tell them things like, “I hope you die a thousand deaths” or “May darkness be upon your family.” That was cursing and/or the swear phrases of the time. Of course, spiritually, such phrases are indeed cursing but walking down the street today, if you said that to someone, they’d probably look at you and go, “What?” So it seems that the reason cursing is a no-no amongst Christians is because it displays the heart-motive behind the words used. Frankly, if I told you to screw off, that’s the same as me telling you to F-off because in my heart I mean it the same way. If I stub my toe and yell out something dumb like “Cow patties” in anger, that’s the same as saying the other word. Again, it’s about the heart.
For my own conviction, if I’m doing something around the house and tell someone I have a pile of blank to clean up, I don’t mean such a word in a malicious way nor is it directed at anyone, therefore I’m in the clear.
But, again, there are certain expectations of the Christian from a worldly standpoint and so it’s best to refrain from swearing in fiction.
On sex: From 2005 onward, there’s been no sex in my books. At most, it is implied (i.e. “They went to the bedroom”), but never graphically detailed. Sex in and of itself is a beautiful thing ordained by God for both procreation and recreation. God is pro sex. However, we humans have twisted and turned it into something else and, worse, have made it a source of entertainment in various mediums. The reason why sex as entertainment is out of bounds is because it incites lust, whether overtly like porn or a little less so via fiction. Is writing about sex wrong in and of itself? No. If someone asked me to give them an idea of what a sex session looked like and wanted me to write it and their motive was purely for education, I’d have no trouble with that. But, if I knew they’d use it as a source of lustful imaginings, then there’s an issue. It’s not so much lusting after fictional characters being wrong—I mean, they’re not real so technically you’ve lusted after nobody thereby haven’t violated Jesus’s command to not look another with lust. But, the danger is it can warp your view of sex and/or sexualize people you see walking down the street thereby putting you in a compromised position. And it’s for that reason I abstain from graphic sex in my books.
It’s kind of like asking is it appropriate for Christian artists to go to life drawing classes with nude models? My answer is it’s just fine provided lust doesn’t enter the equation. The human body is a beautiful thing and was made in God’s image. It’s a work of art. Having been in life drawing classes myself, I can tell you, lust doesn’t enter the mind because after a couple minutes, the naked person standing in front of you is viewed as no more than a teapot or lamp. That’s not to say I view them as objects, but I’m more focused on getting the curves and anatomy right that I’m not even thinking sexual thoughts. But, once more, if lust entered the picture, then it’s time to pack up my sketchpad and leave.
On violence: I struggle in this area. I’m not sure how much is too much and how much is not enough, from a fiction standpoint. After all, every book needs conflict and sometimes that conflict gets violent. Should I show it realistically? Should I skimp over the details? I’m torn. Biblically speaking, Scripture is extremely violent but it never delves into detail. It just says what happened. I’ve read Christian books that handled violence the same way. They broke the rule of show-don’t-tell and quickly told the reader so-and-so was in a fight or got shot and that’s it.
Upon reflection, my stance on violence right now is again rooted in the heart of the issue. Why am I writing it? Is it because I enjoy showing people getting hurt or cut up or whatever? Or am I simply trying to put the reader in the characters’ shoes and take them through the paces so they can feel what the character is feeling? Showing, not telling. Likewise, from the reader’s point-of-view, if I knew some of the more graphic displays of violence in my fiction fueled some sort of weird lust for torture in my readers, then I’d remove that element because I’m feeding something that shouldn’t be fed.
I will say, writing more or less clean books have been a bonus for me. I feel better about my work and it also serves as a selling point at book signings and conventions. Often people want to buy my stuff for their teenagers. When I assure them the books are language- and sex-free, they’re thrilled to hear it and it helps close the sale. I do warn them, however, that some of my stuff is violent and if showing blood is a put-off for them, then maybe they should pass.
The hardest part about being an author that’s Christian is that sometimes it puts a stopper on creativity. It would be fun to write a book with no rules and just put in whatever I felt like—follow the art, so to speak. After all, I’m a sinful man with sinful tendencies and art is about expression, whether that expression is all happy rainbows or storm clouds. Of course, this also means that what I put on paper is a reflection of my own heart. I’m paraphrasing, but like Jesus said, what’s in a man is what comes out of him, and it’s what comes out of him that defiles him or not.
I suppose this is where “Take up your cross daily” applies.
I think in the end what I write and what I include ultimately shows where I’m at in my spiritual journey and what business has been squared away and what still needs working on. The main point is this: as mentioned above, it’s about the heart. Mine’s not perfect, but it’s getting better.
Take this as you may.
Sidenote: if you like writing contemplation and publishing talk, consider signing up for my free weekly newsletter, The Canister X Transmission at www.tinyletter.com/apfuchs You also get a free clown thriller out of the deal.
The first year of newsletters have been collected and released as The Canister X Transmission: Year One. Details at http://bit.ly/1PqpSNh Thanks.
Rizzo: Year One
by Chris Riseley and Sean Simmans 5 out of 5
What do you get when you team up a struggling writer and an artist who wears a dinosaur costume all day long? You get Rizzo, a hilarious collection of the syndicated comic strip.
Rizzo, the character, writes. W. Bill Czolgosz, the character, draws, and these strips follow them on their adventure of trying to make their mark in a world that doesn’t appreciate them or their “art.”
The gags are brief, about 3-4 panels long, and you find yourself laughing out loud for most of them and laughing on the inside for all of them.
This humor, part simple silliness and part commentary, is smart, witty and, to a degree, “observational” ala Seinfeld.
Rizzo burst onto the scene a few years back and appears in many newspapers across the country.
This book is a “best of” collection, chosen from over 900 strips. (There are about 300 strips in the book.)
For the next week, I’ll be off all social media outlets as I’ve got some deadlines to attend to. At most, I’ll be using my social media channels as a means to broadcast various bits from this blog or other book-related items. In terms of direct communication with me, please use my email or, if you’re in my inner circle, the studio phone number.
If you do try and contact me via social media, please note these will go unanswered. If I stumble across the communication upon my return to the channels next week, I’ll get back to you. If not, please hang up and try again.
Part of being a writer. There are times to disconnect and get some work done.
There are those on the planet who enjoy making things. I mean, really making things, going from mere idea to its actual physical reality. There’s a sense of pride in seeing something through start to finish, crafting something with your own hands, making something that wasn’t there before.
Our world wouldn’t be where it is if not for those who saw it fit to make their ideas a reality, for others to see, feel and experience those ideas and, hopefully, make the world a better place as a result. Sometimes we’ve succeeded at that, others times not. Regardless, bringing something into existence that wasn’t there before is incredible.
That’s what self-publishing is: an incredible way for writers to bring their ideas into physical reality for a reader. And while before it was a joint effort between a publisher and writer to do that, taking the path of self-publishing enables the writer to be the sole creator of a book.
The reasons people take the self-publishing route vary from individual to individual, but there has to be a few positive reasons behind doing it for it to be a viable option and worth the writer’s time, effort, and money.
Self-publishing puts the success or failure of a book on the writer’s shoulders. By them being the publisher, it rests on them if the book succeeds or not, and by walking the book from conception to finished manuscript to formatted and printed paperback/hardcover and eBook, they can oversee each step in the process to stack the odds in their favor for a successful outcome.
Why should anyone self-publish? I mean, it is an awful lot of work. Some, like me, would argue that the writing of the book is the easy part, but turning that manuscript into a published book is where the challenge is.
It’s not for everybody and is certainly not for those seeking a get-rich-quick scheme, but it is for those who are entrepreneurial by nature, are very hands-on, enjoy a great deal of control, and even are lone wolves at heart. Writing itself is a lonely job, sitting there for hours on end typing on a computer or writing a book on a legal pad. Throw taking that manuscript and turning it into a published book into the mix and you’ve just added even more hours spent by yourself.
For me, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love my alone time and prefer to spend the majority of my time that way if it can be helped. Ever since I was a kid I enjoyed time by myself, with time spent with others more of a chore than a joy. Nothing against anybody; just how I’m wired. But if this is you, too, then you’ve already got the makings of a writer and a self-publisher.
To see a book through from start to finish, there’s an immense amount of control. Unlike the traditional publishing model where things like the cover or even the book’s title are under the domain of the marketing department, everything is up to the writer if they self-publish. The beauty of this is you can not only call the book what you want instead of giving your baby another name, but also decide on its presentation.
When writing the book you no doubt had the story’s different scenes playing through your head. I’m sure there was at least one moment or two where you thought, Man, if only this scene was on the cover. Well, self-publishing gives you that chance. You can be very specific with the artwork and hire someone to bring to life that image you saw in your mind’s eye. Likewise, the book’s interior can be presented the way you want. Do you want spot illustrations in it? Hey, hire and artist and put them in. A traditional publisher might not go for that if you asked because it’s an added expense for them and an additional hassle in terms of coordinating with the artist for those images. Same with even font style, or simply labeling your chapters as “Chapter One” or “Chapter 1” or “1.” However you want it is how it’ll be which, to me, brings an added level of artistry to the book. Not only did you write the story, but you also designed the canvas for it to be presented on. Self-publishing is the only way to have this kind of control.
Same with picking the price point. Traditional publishers have a bottom line they’re trying to feed and, depending, that bottom line might not even be dictated by the company owner but by others with their fingers in the pie. After all—and as I’m sure you’ve experienced if you’ve ever worked for a big company—the almighty shareholder comes first and who cares about practicality, right? By being in control of the pricing, you get to decide how much you make as the author/publisher and have the ability to experiment with different price points to see which one yields you the most earnings.