I never intended to commit trilogy, I sort of fell into it, and here I am, two published trilogies later. I wish I’d known at the outset what I learned while doing it.
A little background: Having made the rookie mistake of trying to write a trilogy before I’d sold a book I realised that you can waste a lot of time writing Book Two (in my case, two years) but it will never see the light of day if Book One doesn’t sell. Having learned my lesson I decided to write standalones with potential for sequels. By the time I got my first book deal from DAW, I had seven completed novels, some (not all) with potential to turn into trilogies. DAW bought Empire of Dust (SF), ordered a sequel on a one-page synopsis, and bought Winterwood (F). Later I got the go-ahead to complete both trilogies.
Here are comments and observations by a variety of writers in the Milford family. We had a Milford stand this year to promote upcoming events and the bursary for SF writers of colour.
Sue Oke says:
This year’s Eastercon, Ytterbium, was held at the Park Inn. A familiar venue from previous years and while the panel/workshops rooms were more than adequate, the hotel seemed totally unprepared for the number of people requiring lunch/drinks etc. (almost as if they didn’t know how many people were coming). Conversations at the bar revealed that quite a few people had to wait until the evening before their room was ready—come on guys, you’ve hosted a convention before, it’s not exactly unexpected for most of the convention guests to arrive around about the same sort of time.
Putting the (let’s face it, the usual) gripes aside—I thoroughly enjoyed my day at the convention. I was…
Terry Pratchett: 1999 A new Discworld novel from Terry
Pratchett is always a major publishing event. The series shows no sign of
faltering as its 24th novel, The Fifth Elephant, heads for the bookshops and – as
always – the bestseller lists. This time Samuel Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City
Watch visits sinister Uberwald (Discworld’s version of Transylvania) on a
diplomatic mission among scheming vampires, murderous werewolves, and
hot-headed dwarfs whose most sacred relic, the Scone of Stone, has just been
stolen…. For Amazon.co.uk, Terry Pratchett talked to David Langford about his
latest book – and others in the pipeline.
• Which aspect of The Fifth Elephant are you most pleased with?
Terry Pratchett: There’s always an element of surprise for
the author when a complex character moves through the plot. I liked the way
Vimes reacted to Uberwald and the way he’s desperate to work within the framework of…
Step 1 Be a voracious reader. Easy! During the school holidays I paid two visits a week to the local library. Once I had exhausted the possibilities of the children’s section I was able to borrow more using my father’s tickets. With them I was able to read H Rider Haggard, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, H G Wells and others ‘too advanced for children’.
Step 2 Discover SF. Also easy. Among the authors I borrowed were Bradbury, Asimov, Heinlein and Wyndham. They, and many others, captured my imagination as no other genre did. I haunted the three bookshops in Edinburgh that had American imports and the yellow spines of DAW books began to dominate my collection. I even used my pocket money to subscribe to Astounding/Analog. Sadly the collection hasn’t survived
Step 3 Start thinking ‘What happened then?’ Not difficult. I often found myself dissatisfied with the ending of…
So, despite being in a sort of hiatus in terms of writing, mostly because I have been working with my writing group to develop some ideas more thoroughly, I have managed to submit to an anthology… and it came out recently. The details are below. I submitted a story about Rachel Drake getting very irritated at not being told the whole plan in a game of international diplomacy…
In this collection we have brought you tales from nine incredibly talented authors. All with one objective, to bring you alphas that are out of this world. Whether you’re looking for an angel in despair, creature in the dark, or a controversial hybrid. We’ve got something for everyone. Take a dive into the…
Wordle used to be a web-based utility, a web toy that allowed you to paste in a piece of writing to make a word cloud. The more frequently a word appeared in your text, the bigger it appeared in the word cloud. Yes, it’s a pretty utility, but also massively useful for a writer. We all tend to have words that we overuse, but we don’t always recognise them. Cut and paste your text into Wordle and your overused words stand out like a rhinoceros in a flock of sheep. Frequently used common words like ‘the’, ‘and’, or ‘but’ don’t show up, of course.
Wordle is a Java applet. Because web design and technology moves on, the online Wordle web toy no longer works for most people, so the Wordle folks have offered a desktop version for both Windows and Mac. You can download it here http://www.wordle.net/. I’m running…
Research – good, solid, grounding research -is essential for any book, but doubly so for a historical fantasy – and thrice that when you’re using extant and still in-use locations for your setting!
The Devil’s West books are set in the American West, the land that in our timeline was the Louisiana Purchase. I’d taken a major on American social and political history in college, so the bones of What If were already set: what if our exploration into the West had gone differently? What if, instead of a Gold Rush and a Land Rush, instead of Manifest Destiny, we’d been forced to slow down, to consider the territory west of the Mississippi a sovereign land, to be wooed and negotiated with rather than colonized? What if magic resisted “civilization?”
But writing about the Territory brought up a significant problem: North America is vast. The continental US alone is nearly…
Are you interested in the Milford SF Writer’s Conference? A year ago, I definitely was! I was in the middle of the Taos Toolbox Writer’s Workshop and couldn’t get enough of its “Milford-Style Critique” – a collaborative process in which a dozen or so writers critique each other’s stories in a circle of peers. For each story, every attendee offers 2-3 minutes of commentary (timed) to which the writer listens (quietly), at which point they may respond, followed by open discussion.
Milford Group 2018
Taos Toolbox tweaks this a little bit by having two experienced authors – Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress – moderate the critiques. They follow student critiques with free-form critiques of their own, giving the students a role model to follow. But I still wanted to be prepared, so I looked up what Milford-Style Critique was and how to do it constructively – and while I…
So you’re working on a story, and it really ought to have a fight scene. But you’re sitting there thinking, “I’m not a martial artist! I’m not a member of the SCA! I have no idea how to fight!” Or maybe you’re thinking, “Fight scenes are so boring. I’d rather skip over this and get back to the actual story.” Or something else that makes you dread writing that scene, rather than looking forward to it with anticipation.
To the first group, I say: the details of how to fight are possibly the least important component of a fight scene. The crucial components are the same ones you’re already grappling with in the rest of your writing—description, pacing, characterization, all that good stuff.
To the second group, I say: it’s only boring if the author does it wrong.
A fight is part of the story. Just like any other scene…
The first chapter of your book needs to be a bit special. All of the chapters need to be special, but Chapter 1 needs to be extra special. This is your agent-catcher. It’s the chapter where you need to hook that agent’s attention – or reader’s attention – and then keep them going. Your first chapter should be so polished that water can’t even settle on it, it just slides right off without any friction at all.
So, without further ado, here’s a checklist for your own first chapter that you might find useful to work through, to see if you’re doing common things that generally don’t work. This comes with the usual caveat that everybody’s writing process is different, and what works for me may not work for you etc… but I’d be willing to bet that if (like me with my previous 1.5 million words of novels!) you’ve…