Aspiring author and random thinker

Tag Archives: Writing process

On Writing: Book III Part I…Seiko

Today I ended the first part of my current work in progress – Preliminary name Deliverance – at a total of 27k words. This is the first draft so it would probably change once reviewed and changed even more once edited. There is one interesting phenomenon I would like to talk to however, regarding an interesting deviation from the outline.

As you know, I started writing in a modular outline method – a method by which I combine both outline and discovery writing techniques to some extent – and found that it resolves many issues I encountered. While writing this part, my method remained unchanged from the last part of the last book, ‘Book of Kayal: Hands of Fate‘. However, yesterday I took it upon myself to change the usual setting where I write. Instead of writing at home, I went to a coffee shop and sat for a decent amount of time, immersing myself in the book. My writing pace suffered recently and I found that this little change brought about a lot of creativity and motivation. Suddenly, my fingers started going berserk and the words flew onto my screen. By the end of two hours, I had 4k words smashed over there.

The chapter outline was followed for the first two sub-chapters as it flowed smoothly with the story, but the remaining five I had prepared were a little repetitive and boring. It took me two sips of green tea to get an innovative way of improving the plot. I replaced the third through the sixth with a different set of situations, which I like even after rereading them today, and tailored the same ending I had in mind to the replaced outline. The result was beautiful. Not only did I finish the part ahead of schedule, but I improved it as well.

Based on my experience, I would suggest you stay-at-home-writers to try changing the scene every once and a while.

On Writing: Outline Deviation

So I prepared an outline for the first part of my third book, the fifth outline I ever prepare for a book part, and I liked it. However, as I wrote, new ideas, like the fizz in a soda can, started popping in my head. I ended up following the first two chapters with no deviations from my outline as the story was yet to take shape. When I started working on the third chapter, I realized that some additional unexpected situations would greatly increase the quality of the book.

The third chapter is about the main protagonist starting his quest, after being torn from his pleasant lifestyle. It starts when the protagonist and his two companions seek an audience with a certain notorious Countess as part of a dead man’s will. I intended to make it focus on the protagonist and almost excluding any significant situation regarding his companions – they would simply sit this one out. However, I realized that adding a major handicap to one of his companions would only make the story more interesting, and this addition would not affect the intended ending of this book because it has not been prepared yet.

This is the first time I make such a huge deviation from the outline. I consider my lack of my reluctance to do so as proof that it is a valuable addition to the story. So I basically wanted to say that I found an additional advantage of preparing modular outlines.

On Writing: Meaningless Delays

I discovered that naming things often delays my writing and prevents me from ‘riding a thought wave’, if that makes any sense. Instead of wasting time searching for names and titles, I started preparing a key-type chart. It goes something like this:

(1)-main character

(2)-small town, windy climate

(3)-support character, middle-aged female, shy, blond

(4)-main character father, old, deceased

(5)-special Greek-derived art

(6)-imperial city

That is just something I picked up a few days ago. This saves me the research to later, and allows me to freely explore the concepts I am brewing.

On Publishing: Attempt One

Just in case some of you have not been following my writing posts, I will give you a short summary about what happened so far before going on with my first attempt at independently publishing.

I started seriously writing about a year ago and finished three fantasy books for a series I named Book of Kayal. I knew that the first two books would not be very good, yet I tried my luck finding a literary agent for them. Because there was somewhat of a cliffhanger in the end of the first book (Rise from Exile), I decided to merge it with my shorter second book (Broken Shackles), I named it (Wolf Emperor). Needless to say, I got rejections left and right. At first, doubt started to take over and it felt rather depressing, but I realized that this would not be an easy journey and kept writing just for the enjoyment of the process.

The third book I finished revising and all last week. It was by far the best work I have ever done in terms of concept, idea and plot. I spent some time researching the characters and integrated the same idea from the first book, with a great deal of tinkering, of using mythological and historical characters in the story. For example, Thalia was the Greek Goddess of drama, I made a character having similar features to what I expect a talented artist to be like – I named my character Thalia too.

This books outline was my second attempt at making one, I wrote the first book using a method referred to as discovery by Brandon Sanderson (author Mistborn series and many other books),  and making a coherent plot to bind all elements together while focusing on sub-plots during each chapter. After reading a lot of books, I mean over 40 in a span of less than six months, I found the exact style I wanted my books to have, that ending that makes everything suddenly seem so logical – the big ‘Ahhh’. Additionally, I read a great deal of short stories which provided a quick insight on the conceptual elements, not ideas, I wanted to have in my books. I finally decided to write each chapter as a short story with its own moral or philosophical lesson to it, some were better than others though. The hardest part, however, was finding this golden idea that made a mediocre book – I know this sounds strange – great by incorporating a hinted sub-plot that unveils itself in the end – the reason behind all of what happened.

So I finished my third book, revised it and decided on the platform I wanted to publish it on. From my experience with literary agents, I realized that most of them don’t even consider unpublished authors regardless of how well a synopsis, query or sample chapters are written, and you can’t blame them for it. Amazon Kindle seemed the best way of publishing my book, after some research.

Two days ago, I posted my book on kindle and started sending emails to various book reviewing websites/blogs. I am not sure what happened regarding the emails yet. Nevertheless, I could not sit and wait for the reviewers to respond, so I went with the second part of my plan and created various announcements on different forums, including relevant reddit subreddits, deviant art, facebook and goodreads. I know that there is practically no way I might make a single sale unless I have reviews or the book was offered for free, so I enrolled in the kindle select program and offered my book for free on Friday and Saturday 14-15. Yesterday at 11:00 am (+2 GMT) was my first book download. The amount of happiness I felt when seeing that 0 become a 1 was incredible, in spite of the face that it was a free promotion. Now, and 190 downloads later, I find myself reaching a halt about my next step. I guess the only thing to do is wait for reviews to pop in and see how it goes from there.

For a book to be successful it needs to have thousands of copies downloaded, but I do not expect mine to reach this level yet, unless by some miracle or great marketing. Being an author is a difficult thing, but when you see the slightest improvement or interest by someone else in your work, it is a reward which outweighs all the hard work and effort spent in this beautiful hobby/profession. I still have leagues and leagues to go, but perhaps one day I might be able to be good enough to make a living out of writing.

You can find the book on Amazon US here and Amazon UK here It is free today (Saturday 15/6/2013) and will be offered for free again on (Friday 21/6/2013). I will keep you updated about any other free promotions on this blog and on my twitter account (@TarekCherif3), which I seem to be horrible at managing.

On Writing: Book III

The second book is undergoing a final revision and should be ready to publish within two weeks, if not sooner. However, I can’t sit idle while this little process goes on. So I decided to prepare the third book – which I had planned in my head for a while now.

I’ve learnt a great deal from my first two stories, and from two dozen short stories which yet remain to be published, but I don’t expect any of my work to be of high-enough standard for traditional publishing (I read somewhere that once you reach your 1,000,000th word you start writing well enough for traditional publisher standards – I am at my 300,00oth word so far).

Anyway, this post is not about publishing, rather about the process I am using for this third book.

Anyone who has been reading my posts so far knows that I am currently focusing on epic fantasy, yet reading a wide spectrum of genres. Nevertheless, I believe that my process is not tailored to the genre, except for the map-making process which helps me keep track of the events.

I picked an approach very similar to that of the third part of the second book, a fairly detailed modular outline which includes most major elements of the story. The outline serves as a guideline for the story, but I often deviate from it should a better scenario or idea arise. The modular approach is great for keeping the writing process interesting and making it amiable enough for any future ideas that might develop. It also allows for a chance to alter the story to a more interesting direction than the intended one and keep it coherent in terms of events.

For example, I have already prepared the outline for the first part (5 chapters) of the book and started writing the story (4,000 words so far). However, while I was working on the writing process itself, after the initial and only intended outline was complete, I found that the sub-chapters would make more sense if juggled around.

The outline itself is split into two parts for each chapter. The first is a clear bullet-point format for the following (6) elements, the goal of the chapter, the idea I wish to convey (I try to conform to a short-story format during the chapters to always have a distinct idea to convey at the end of the chapter – usually political or philosophical), the requirements necessary for the accomplishment of the goal, the methods by which the goal is to be completed, the conditions required for the fulfillment of the goal, and any key explanations I intend to convey (these are usually elements occurring in the timeline which do not directly stem from the actions of the main character/s). The second part is a summary-like version of the sub-chapters (I usually number the events by their sequence). With the combination of these two outline elements, I get to breeze through the story writing a possible 1,000 or 2,000 words an hour, depending on the mood. However, the outline itself takes a day to finish for each part and an additional day or two to revise.

Finally, I decided to skip the dramatis personae because, unlike the second book, there are a few new main characters. Nevertheless, I keep a short one prepared to record any necessary information about the characters as I write. For this book, I work on the dramatis personae preparation process in parallel to the writing process.

To make things clear, I have no idea how long this book will be, nor do I have any idea how it will end. All that I know now are the main idea I wish to convey, the theme of the book, and the events for the first part. These three ‘known’ variables you just read are all prone to change within limits, especially the main idea that I tend to downgrade and replace as soon as a better one comes up.

It is with great difficulty that I explain my process and record this journey, but perhaps it would be made easier once my book is available and these posts relate to something more than just a man behind a mysterious screen.

Good luck with whatever endeavor you seek to embark on.

On Writing: Discover Yourself

I have written before about the writing process of my first two books. If you are looking for a professional published writer’s viewpoint, then don’t waste your time reading this. However, if you are interested in a personal journey of an amateur writer discovering his inner-talent, or lack of it, then you’re in the right place.

I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about writing, and I am about to continue spending another significant portion of my time while I take a nice long walk in a few minutes, specifically, figuring out the method that best suits me. I have written with and without an outline and personally experienced the pros and cons of both methods. Nevertheless, so far I realized that both are important for a good piece of literature – in comparison to my own personal standards.

What worked best for me was the preparation of detailed outlines in terms of characters (dramatis personae) and preparing a loose outline for the events of the story. I also started preparing my outlines in modules consisting of five chapters each and found that it provides enough cohesion and minimizes the boxing-in phenomenon known as writer’s block.

During my personal voyage I have discovered something wonderful that continues to amaze me to this day. I noticed that if you write without any preorganization, you tend to open a portal in your words that lead directly to your innermost self. To simplify this, during the revision process of my first book, I realized how my surroundings and desires affected various elements of the book, including characters, plots and ideas.

I suggest that you try to write a story, even a short one, without any preparation at least once to get to know your inner-writer on a more personal level. It might not be your best work though, but it will sure enlighten you about yourself.

Here is the link to the post I published a while ago about my method of preparing a dramatis personae for a fantasy book. Some elements were ignored though because they were unnecessary.

On Writing: Finished Book II

I just finished the first draft of my second book today.

Unlike the first book which had been written as two separate stories and combined, the second one was planned in a more detailed manner. Before writing this one, I did an adequate amount of research to develop my characters properly and wrote a summarized biography on each one of them – this ended being around 5,500 words and took two days worth of work.

I then prepared a simple outline for the first chapter and started working. This book is three parts and, unfortunately, the process changed significantly during the writing. For the first two parts, I wrote the chapter outline for each chapter separately then finished off the chapter. Going with this method for 10 chapters, 5 for each part, I managed to keep myself interested in writing the story as well as have its events flow smoothly, relatively.

By the time I reached the 65,000 words, I began getting really bored by the story and found that I was pushing through the writing process as if it was a chore. As a result the quality of writing deteriorated in the middle of the story, and it took a rather depressing turn away from the light one I intended it to have, but the sequence of events seemed to be flowing as I intended.

For the first two parts, the outline reached 6,500 words (about 1:10 ratio to the content) and was explaining key events appropriately. As for the third and final part, I decided to tackle it with a different way, one inspired by what I learnt from writing short stories. I spent around a week preparing two outlines. The first was a general outline which included the following elements for the part: (1) Goal, (2) Requirements, (3) Methods, (4) Conditions, (5) Issues/Problems, and (6) Key Explanations. The outline had all the elements I wanted to cover summarized in 1,600 words. This general outline was then expanded to a detailed outline which included all of these elements for each chapter with an exception of (6) Key Explanations which was saved for the final wrap-up chapter. For every chapter a brief summary was written and then expanded into individual sub-chapters for it. I attempted to include a moral concept or an interesting idea in each chapter while linking it to the main plot. An attempt to make each chapter stand-alone was made, but with little success. The detailed outline ended up being 8,500 words.

Overall, I found that the best method for me two write is not to tackle the book as a free-writing discovery type of literature, but to slowly move in short outlined modules. This way enables me to plan a decent outline while keeping the creativity factor alive, hence preventing me from being bored with the project. For me, the trick is to outline a maximum of five chapters ahead and deviate from it with limitations. Most importantly, I found that the quality of writing and interest factor for the author and reader increases the more the content stimulates the thinking process – as long as it does not make either process exhausting.

Starting from tomorrow, I will be proofreading and editing the first draft of the first part to make sure the story remains consistent with the end. Unlike the first book, I will be starting on my second draft immediately and delay the one-month-break process to the third draft, if I decide to continue with it.

I read somewhere that writers start producing high-quality work after their millionth word, and that is the goal I intend to reach within the next two years. So far I have written slightly over 250,000 words of unedited story content.

On Writing: Outline

I wrote my first story (75,000 words) without using an outline and completed it in just under a month. I enjoyed writing and often sought to make time during my day to write. There were the occasional days where I managed to write 10,000 words and others where I wrote none.

However, I thought that my story seemed a little foggy in terms of plot development, in spite of the reviewers telling me that it was fine. Due to the self-non-satisfying plot development, I decided to prepare an outline for my second story before writing it. It went smoothly as I started off and motivated me to keep on writing, but as I got deeper into the story its shining faded away. Finishing it started to feel like a chore.

Eventually I decided to merge the first and second volumes into one bigger book of 120,000 words. Nevertheless, the stop between both books as well as the improvement in my writing skills gave me the impressions that he style changes drastically by the end.

The third and current project was my final and most successful attempt at making the plot smooth (so far). Instead of preparing the outline in one sitting before I start to write, I decided to prepare each chapter’s outline just before writing it. This method cost me the flow of the story a little as my ideas and concepts about the story develops. However, it does help keeping me motivated to write and continue with the story. Each chapter is dedicated to part of the protagonist’s journey with a complete set of story elements. In other words, each chapter feels more like a short story which ties into the main plot.

So far the biggest challenges I met in writing long stories were (1) keeping my goals in perspective, (2) keeping motivated to write, (3) finding appropriate historical figures or myths to base the lore on, and (4) preparing a smooth outline that dictates the story flow.

Although my journey as an amateur writer had just begun, I already feel it improving me.