Yesterday, I finished novel number thirty nine.


Yeah, I’m kind of boggled by that number as well.

If everything goes well, I’ll start and finish novel number forty next week. And start novel number forty one the week after that.

So I thought I’d do a writing process blog thingy, as I have a little bit of experience when it comes to writing novels. As always, this is my process. Yours will almost certainly be different.

For me, one of the most important aspects of writing novels is making them all different. This was such a valuable lesson for me, not just in terms of writing trilogies (of which I currently have seven) (???!!!???)  but also in terms of just writing.

Telling the same story over and over again would bore me to tears. I wouldn’t write if I had to tell the same story, or just write about this small set of characters. Writing is exploration for me. It’s also all about making shit up. I don’t want to use someone else’s magic system if I’m writing contemporary fantasy. I don’t want to use someone else’s world if I’m going epic or writing SF.

The corollary to that is that while I know my writing process, I also understand that it changes frequently. The habit of writing is generally the same. How it feels, and what I need to do in order to finish a novel, changes based on the project.

For example, there are some novels that I need to do a lot of pre-work for. The book that I just finished, “A Stone Strewn Clash” falls into that category. I had to write up the creation myths of all the people before I could start writing those books. I had a really good sense of where this book ended, knew what the final chapters would be, before I had started the novel.

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t surprised. Writer brain knew more of what was going on and didn’t bother telling me until the last chapter, where things kind of got turned on their head. That last chapter was very surprising for me, even though I knew what was going to happen. Sort of. Kind of.

Then there are books where I do no thinking. No plotting or planning. All of the troll books were like that. I didn’t have a clue what was going to happen. Every chapter was a surprise. Everything about the plot and the characters came out of nowhere. And yet, I feel as though those books are some of the most commercial books that I’ve ever written. I’ve also been told by readers that they’re some of my best.

There are other books where I frequently have to stop and ask, “Okay, what happens next?” I’ll open up a new Word doc and just start typing. The Tanesh Empire dark epic fantasy books were that way. I wouldn’t know where I was going until I stopped and asked that question, then I’d figure it out and move forward again. It was like traveling someplace and having to stop and ask for directions from my subconscious now and again.

I’ve outlined some books (like the Franklin books). I’ve thought more about structure than story (like the Troll Wars books). I’ve not had a clue what the next novel is about until I write a particular sentence in the current novel and everything clicks together (the Shadow Wars trilogy and the Witch’s Heart books.)

The other thing for me is that it took a long, *long* time to figure out how to write books number two and three in a trilogy. I would just write book ones and never write the next books in the series. Now, I’m writing a lot more trilogies and series, instead of just one-off books. Sure, I’ll still write one offs (finished one late last year, in fact.) But I am writing longer stories now. Possibly more complicated as well, though I still think “Harps of the Six Kingdoms” is one of my largest, most complicated stories, even though it’s a single title, composed of three novellas (that do not stand on their own.)

The secret for me was to make every book different. I just wasn’t interested in revisiting the characters, no matter how much fun I’d had with them the first time around. They had to do something very different the next time. Everything had to be different, not just the story but frequently, the story structure.

For example, the Troll Wars trilogy. Book one has a very classic three act structure. Book two is more of a five act. While book three is a two act (think musical: everyone going to the dance, everyone at the dance.)

While it’s the Wind-Stone-Sea TRILOGY that has a three act structure – book one is the first act, book two is the second act, while book three is the third act.

Okay – I think this is enough of my blathering. Let me know if you have questions about writing novels, or how I start, or what inspires me, or what have you.

I hope that you’re doing well! Tell me what’s going on with you and your art.