A writing plan for the coming year

Deus-Hex-Machina-Cyberpunk-CoverI ended 2016 on a high note writing wise. The entire year had been a wonderful rush of productivity, starting with a call from my publisher to submit a manuscript for a book I was crowdfunding at the time — a book I hadn’t written yet. Some magic person had expressed interest in something called “optioning,” which is a fancy way of saying they wanted to put dibs on any movies or TV shows made using my story. The trouble was this project was an entire experiment, but as I was going to learn, sometimes trying something new can result in amazing things.

Deus Hex Machina began as a graphic novel script started during something called Script Frenzy back in 2011 (A month-long writing challenge to create a script, now morphed into Camp Nanowrimo). I had started writing it during Script Frenzy and gave up on it pretty early in, largely because I already had a completed graphic novel script I couldn’t find an artist to collaborate on (I still haven’t honestly). I stopped DHM the graphic novel, tucked my 30 pages of script away in my archives, and thought nothing more of it until I was faced with the lure of a publishing contest.

Having failed to fund my first contest entry and having already begun funding on the sequel, I was left high and dry on the project front. I also had a sneaking suspicion that maybe promotion was the key to success with contests, not merely polished novels already prepped for production. So I put up DHM as an experiment. I spent all my effort on creating an appealing promotion page for the campaign, hit the ground hard on funding, and begged everyone I knew to help.

Evidently this tack worked, because the book captured the interest of this mysterious option-seeker and would go on to hit the light publishing preorder goal. But that interest meant I had to write the darn thing, and quickly. So from February until June that’s what I did, forcing myself into a writing routine that was manic in comparison to my process with Shadow of the Owl. Weirdly enough, I think it was Camp Nanowrimo that helped me push that final leg to finish my manuscript. It had come full circle: What was begun during an April writing challenge was largely finished during an April writing challenge. Fitting I suppose.

And I was giddy. I told my publisher I was finished, and he asked for a synopsis. And I wrote that synopsis, and then he said a word I had never heard before, but one that would change how I write going forward: Treatment. This magical document is a sort of blueprint for a script, and it was something my publisher would need to pitch the option to studios and such.  Over the course of the summer I would spend hours talking with him about the story and even more hours writing the treatment. I had thought it would be a simple process, but it took seven drafts before I finally had something my publisher was happy with.

That meant in September I was cleared to edit my manuscript, and I had a nice, shiny treatment to use as my roadmap. For the rest of the year I edited in a way I never had before: Intentionally, nose pressed against the story, honing what was pretty messy into something I’m proud of.  Once I was done with my edit, I celebrated by ordering a physical copy of the second draft using the temp cover I threw together for the project.

And on December 31st, as the year ended, I submitted my manuscript to Inkshares. DHM is now in their hands.

2016 taught me to be an author. I had been a writer for so long, both fiction and nonfiction, both professional and amateur. I had blogged, written articles for a half dozen gaming websites, lead my own teams of writers as an editor in chief, but I had never sat down and forced fiction from my fingers in such an intentional way before. I now have a process by which I can plan out my stories, lay them out on the table and then breathe life into them.

I also have a fiction addiction now. As soon as I hit submit on the email that sent off my book to the publisher, my fingers twitched for a new project. It’s like I don’t know how NOT to write anymore. I have begun a short story, one set in the world of Shadow of the Owl. It’s fun to write without pressure, without deadline, and to get back to my fantasy roots. Once this story — Aebrin’s Song — is complete, I will probably write another piece of short fiction before I dive back into the novel cycle, and then I will most likely be starting with a deep dive on planning DHM 2. Whether or not that book gets written this year, I want to have the general outline complete before I forget the ideas that are pinging around my head.

There will also be publishing happening this year. Aside from my two short stories there are two books in production at Inkshares: Deus Hex Machina and the video game anthology I am a part of entitled Too Many Controllers.  The story I submitted for that project is one that I am immensely proud of, considering it’s something I had started years ago and figured would never see the light of day. I am not certain exact timing on either of these books, but I expect at least one of them will be published in 2017. Then there’s Shadow of the Panther, which needs to be written before I can self publish it. Man it’s going to be a busy year.