A Comparison of Beginnings

Of Blood and Blade Remade

Writing Has Started on OBaB Remade

As of February 22, 2020 I began writing the first draft to the rewrite of my first published novel. Today, I’d like to present the opening paragraph as it stands, and juxtapose this new beginning with the original. I’ll let you decide which is better.

The New Beginning:

Chaos magic drizzles from the leylines in the sky, spattering fear onto Grier Solemn’s face. Would it happen today? How many would be lost to the lightning? Master Tolk shows no such fear, standing defiant against the streaming tears of gods.

What I like about this paragraph is that it asks questions all the way through. There’s a touch of purple prose. There’s a sense of scale. At this point, I’m free to describe what’s happening and dig into the story. Hopefully, in future rewrites, I can get rid of the literal questions in the middle, but still have readers asking about the lightning. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait a bit for the answer. Well, actually, the questions about the lightning do get answered in Chapter One…

 

The Original Beginning:

Grier Solemn is facing death.  The Prince of Shadows hangs precariously from a rock jutting out the side of a massive cliff he is instructed to climb.  Not a minute ago, his poise had been cool and collected; but when he found a handhold in the small boulder and grabbed for it, the rock shifted.  Only just catching itself within the cliff somewhere, Grier still lives rather than having fallen the many meters between him and the ocean’s glassy surface.  Unfortunately, this does not solve his problem.  The top of the cliff is still twenty meters above him; and if he moves, the boulder may move again.  This time his luck may not keep the rock from breaking off the cliff completely.

 

Now, I do like this beginning. Unfortunately, by the time you finish reading this paragraph, every question asked has been answered. It says nothing about the greater world. All you know about Grier is that he’s hanging off a cliff…which is allegory to what he’ll face later in the novel, but in all these words, the reader is never told that Grier is a warrior and this is training. That first sentence, then, is as bad as opening with a dream sequence- it doesn’t matter. Also, I give Grier the moniker “Prince of Shadows,” which sounds all cool and mysterious, but the question of what it means never gets answered throughout the one-hundred thirty thousand-word novel.

 

What do You Think?

Which opener do you prefer? Also, what are your thoughts on rewriting a published work in the digital age?

 

Thanks for joining me today, I’ll see you soon.

 

Paints the Invisible Eye, James Neal, jamesnealbooks, fantasy books, fantasy book, fantasyJames Neal is the author of Paints the Invisible Eye, which can be found on Amazon. Granted, exercise machines can be found there too, but don’t tell James, he likes his chips and bread too much.

 

 

 

 

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Why I’m Rewriting My First Published Novel/ Starting Over

Of Blood and Blade, James Neal, fantasy books, fantasy book

Of Blood and Blade, James Neal, fantasy books, fantasy bookI am James Neal. There’s a lot of descriptive words one can use to help you envision and try to capture who I am: author, father, husband, artist, computer technician, blogger, and even watcher of reaction videos.

The past three years have seen me trying hard to be most of these. Back in 2014, I released my first (and only thus far) novel: Of Blood and Blade. What followed was a whirlwind of learning how to set up, manage, and write a blog. I learned how to use social media, mistakenly believing Twitter would be the best place to find readers. I wrote a novelette and several short stories, three of which I believe were worth putting up for public consumption.

I started making friends in the industry, mostly beginners like myself. Then, a horrid mix of depression, work woes, and personal crap I won’t go into here created a perfect storm which saw me give up writing. Not give up on writing, but I just didn’t have anything in me to give to the page. I was putting all my energy into being an adult and still finding myself short.

Two years ago, I started feeling I could come back. I created Tempered Wordsmith, which you’re reading now. A lot of work and thought went into making sure not only that I had a plan, but that I wanted to do this. And I did.

Then I had to move. Fuck. Mandy and Murder Bear Narrator 11 Black

So, my family and I (my wife and three children mind you), packed everything we owned, left Missouri and returned to Texas. And the next two years were non-stop worries about how the rent would be payed, how to get another car when some pizza delivery guy decided to speed in the rain and ram into us, my son getting bullied in school, and the general chaos that is raising three children.

I only survived all this because I had family near me: my sister, mother, and aunt all live within an hour of me. Anytime I needed help, they were there. Anytime I needed to talk, they were there. Anytime I didn’t realize what I needed, they were there anyway.

But I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t drawing. I wasn’t really parenting. I tried to do all of these, and more. Instead, I was swimming in a black pool and didn’t know how to get out of the water. There were no stairs, there was no ladder. I just kept thrashing my arms and hoping I didn’t get too tired.

But you get tired. You get tired of feeling like you’re drowning. Of trying. Of failing to accomplish even the simplest of goals. Clean the house? Nope. Cook? Nope, daughter did it. Work? Nope, no license (that’s another story) and again, three kids- one of which was under two years of age. Can’t leave him alone.

Then, this dystopian existence shattered. It was so simple, yet I doubt the people involved (once more, my sister, and her husband). They made the decision to take me on as an employee. My sister watches over my youngest while I work, they pay me a livable wage, my hours are not crazy, and the work isn’t back-breaking.

I’ve been working for three weeks, and already, financially, we are out of the red. I just paid two bills yesterday with my own money. I haven’t even told my wife yet as of writing.

 

So what does this have to do with writing?

The easy answer is- because I’m not worried about everything, it feels like I have time to begin writing again. But that’s not entirely true. I’ve had time for three years. The long answer is, I don’t know. All I can say is there is a weight off my heart, chest, and soul, and thus I am both willing and able to look at, and write, words again. If I had to guess, I’d say there’s some amount of truth to the idea that I have enough pride in myself again to be willing to jump back into writing and handle all the different hats and not be destroyed if someone says “this isn’t good.”

I have enough pride in myself again to be willing to jump back into writing

Cool. So why rewrite Of Blood and Blade instead of the sequel?

A realization. I’ve tried on at least three different occasions to write a sequel to my first novel. Unfortunately, the book did not even slightly follow the timeline I have prepared for the trilogy, and every attempt feels forced. There is also a problem in Of Blood and Blade’s structure. It isn’t a great story. It has great parts, it does have a beginning, middle, and end, but ultimately it doesn’t tie together well, nor does it present themes and plotlines in a way I can be proud of now.

I believe a much better writer exists today

While I haven’t been able to write, I have continued to read. Learn. Think. I believe a much better writer exists today, who can write Of Blood and Blade in a way that will present an entertaining, logical, thematic story- everything the current version is not.

I am James Neal. I’ve written things. I’ve published things. I’ve lived things. Now, I’m starting over. Is there any better a place for a writer to start over than with the first story they finished…and making it worth reading while in a mental, emotional, and financial state conducive to caring about the end product?

Thank you for reading about my journey. I hope you’ll stay for a while.

James Neal is a computer tech by day, buttery bread by night. Okay, buttery bread is what he had for dinner, but you are what you eat, right?

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Paints the Invisible Eye, James Neal, jamesnealbooks, fantasy books, fantasy book, fantasy

Lessons from the WFGC Hotel Blog-Hop Anthology: Part II

HOTEL Anthology logo

Hello! This is Part II of What I Learned from the WFGC Hotel Blog-Hop Project.

If you haven’t read Part I yet, I highly suggest you read it first.

 

In April of 2019, my friends and I from the WFGC released the Hotel Blog-Hop Anthology. As a spearhead of that project, I learned several lessons about people, leading, and what goes into creating a project. This is Part II of What I Learned. Have a laugh at my expense and, just maybe, avoid some of our mistakes. If you haven’t read the anthology yet, links to all the stories are on the WFGC website.

“Not Everyone is Going to Finish”Finish Line

When the second round of people dropped out of the project, I was getting discouraged. Brian Buhl had a conversation that turned things around for me. He told me to make sure, when people asked if they could do Thing A or Thing B, that I make every effort to say Yes instead of no. He reminded me this was not a professional contest, nor a book. We didn’t want to turn people away over silly rules that were not necessary.

He also explained that some people are always going to quit. They get excited initially, but either don’t have the wherewithal to complete it, or more likely, life gets in the way. Don’t get me wrong, I was still put out some, but it made sense. I extrapolated from this that it would be true with any contest/anthology/blog-hop, but it isn’t visible to contestants. Brian also helped ensure I didn’t hold any animosity towards those who quit by making sure I realized they were human…just like me.

What I learned about losing people on a project:

Everyone is human, and I must remember this always.

Your project may be your baby, but that doesn’t make it important to everybody else.

Everybody faces obstacles in life, and they have the right to decide what they want to take on. There’s no point in taking their decision personally.

 

Marketing NumbersMarketing is NOT My Strongpoint

Towards the end of the project, deadlines loomed over everybody. In a week, we were all supposed to be hitting Publish on our awesome Hotel stories, yet not many people outside the WFGC knew anything about it. And I had no plans save putting the links all over the Twittersphere the day of.

In swooped Chris Henderson Bauer wanting to know the plan. Discovering there is none, she took it upon herself to get our collective asses in gear. My words, not hers.  She also developed a tweet template for all involved authors to use for pre-published marketing. In short, Chris saved us from complete and utter anonymity after all this work.

What I learned about marketing:

A “day-of” plan is not good enough if you want to garner attention outside of those who already know what you’re doing.

If you can, allow an entity larger than yourself to help spread the word. In most cases, this probably involves money, but not always.

Marketing is one of the most important aspects of any project- having eyes on it and interest built up before release day is not going to hurt you. However, that means having a plan and enacting it an appropriate amount of time before the official release.

 

Hitting “Publish”

You can probably imagine that we had less than a perfect launch day. Imperfect (and in some case zero) systems in place, less information given out than usual, and unfinished stories all led to confusion on launch. I failed my responsibility for having systems and information in place, and it could be said I should have pushed those with unfinished stories to finish up faster.

Some might say I’m being too hard on myself. Maybe, but having a history of managing people, I think more could have been done on my part. I fell into a trap of “nobody will far apart if it’s not perfect” thinking, which I should have known better after that first week’s trials.

Regardless, the team managed to put out all the fires one by one, and by the thirteenth, every story was officially out in the world. I don’t know how much attention each individual author received from the Hotel project, and I hope it wasn’t so underwhelming that they wouldn’t consider doing something similar again.

What I learned from launch day:

If you’re leading a project, your job is not over until everybody else’s is, and you’d better be in the trenches or you’re not leading.

Having systems in place that work and are being actively used will help save you from putting out fires at the end of a project.

A “it doesn’t have to be perfect” mindset is a surefire way to ensure the end product is not as satisfying as it should be.

 

It may sound, at this point, like I did not enjoy the process of the WFGC Hotel Blog Hop Project. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I learned some hard lessons, sure, but a fairly large group of friends joined me in creating something cool in under three months. Sure, the process was harder than it needed to be at times. Those rough spots are behind us, the pain of them all but forgotten. The results are still live, and something all of us are proud to call our own. I’m proud of everybody who crossed the finish line with me, and even those who didn’t.

This was a project. I didn’t do it on my own, and I learned (in some cases, re-learned) excellent lessons. There’s really only one last question I have:

 

When are we doing it again???

Serious CircleHi! I’m James Neal, author of dark fantasy available on Amazon.

Granted, so is pizza. Mmmm…pizza.

 

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Lessons from the WFGC Hotel Blog-Hop Anthology: Part I

HOTEL Anthology logo

In April of 2019, my friends and I from the WFGC released the Hotel Blog-Hop Anthology. As a spearhead of that project, I learned several lessons about people, leading, and what goes into creating a project. This is Part I of What I Learned. Have a laugh at my expense and, just maybe, avoid some of our mistakes.

What is the WFGC Hotel Project?

The WFGC Hotel Project is a blog-hop/ anthology of stories which was unleashed upon the world on April 10, 2019. The story however, begins in February. As you might expect, the theme of the project is a hotel. What is WFGC you ask? It stands for Write Fight Gif Club, a group of writers on Twitter who support each other. Often, we help with writing questions. Sometimes, if you prefer, we also provide procrastination.

If you haven’t read the anthology yet, links to all the stories are on the WFGC website.

Office Man

My Role

I sparked the idea of the project by having a short story that I didn’t know what to do with. When I asked WFGC members what I should do, talk of publishing a group anthology started heating up. The reality of the idea set in eventually, but many (including myself) were already excited. We decided to do a free blog-hop instead of publishing a paid anthology that would require contracts, rights, the whole nine yards.

I became the de facto “leader” of the project. I was to be the one to keep these forty or so interested writers invested in the project, follow through on commitments, and ensure the project came to fruition. Which it did, with a grand total of 18 stories!

I did not do it alone.

I did not do it alone. Fellow WFGC’rs Rhiannon Amberfyre and L.C. Marblewood handled damn near all of the registries and people tracking required for this project. Brian C. E. Buhl developed the timetable which we worked, almost exclusively, off of. Chris Henderson Bauer actioned our very short (not her fault) marketing campaign. What did I do? I answered questions, developed the Blog-Hop logo, wrote the project’s Survival Guide (with live updates as they happened), and created the projects website which is, essentially, a blog.

So what did I learn from this role?

People will lose the fervor of the initial idea and leave the project.

If you’re doing this for the first time, you have no idea what you’re doing.

Eventually, you must solidify ideas the group can work with, and this often includes compromise from your original vision.

 

Compromise

My initial idea for the project was simple: every story takes place in the same hotel, but within each room, absolutely anything can happen. It was even going to have the tagline: Every room tells a story. Why could absolutely anything happen? Because we wanted our authors to have room to write in any genre, and allow anything to happen, so long as the hotel as a whole wasn’t destroyed in the process.

Ultimately, it was decided that this vision was too limiting. Many people wanted to be able to exit the room and still have events happen. Several wished to have their characters meet with other author’s characters to create a sense of unity. Some people wanted to write stories outside of a singular hotel. All good ideas, and my initial vision did not support them.

We managed to make all of things possible, though it did steer my own story in a specific direction…the hotel needed to be a quantum, metaphysical space, and my story allowed that to happen…at least canonically.

This is what I learned about compromise:

The initial idea is not always best for the group.

I need to better my ability at persuasion.

Most times, it’s better to say yes, than no.

 

Everyone Needs to Understand What’s What. What?

Question Mark

The first three days after deciding we were actually going to do this were hectic. No, that’s an understatement. It was chaos. Forty people were throwing out ideas, nobody wanted to say no to anybody, and there was no plan of action. Attempting to answer those questions without a roadmap was pointless, but I was trying anyway (along with Rhi and L.C.).

We knew we didn’t want to limit genres pretty much from the get-go, but nobody understood how that was going to work if we kept to a single hotel. Many questions revolved around due dates, and on that we had absolutely no clue until we were almost a week out. We lost several people during this time. Not that I blame them. People are busy, have lives. If you cannot give them a simple piece of information such as “when do you expect me to get this to you,” they are not going to commit.

Rhiannon and L.C. came up with the idea of allowing people to “register into the hotel,” by assigning them a room number within our theoretical hotel. This worked wonders. People knew they were being kept track of, and would receive information as it came about.

I then created the Hotel Project Survival Guide, which put all known information in one place. I put that on Google Drive and allowed all interested parties to download it. It occurred to me soon after that the Guide would need to be updated regularly, and that is when I decided to create a website for the project. I’d never created a private one before, but thankfully, the process did not prove all that difficult.

This is what I learned about organization:

People need a clear plan of action, and it will be easier on everybody if that plan is already established.

When people do not have an actionable timetable, they will not commit b/c real life is hectic already and they don’t need to add stress to their life.

Simple systems which insure people will be informed and up to date create a sense of safety and take much of a project’s stress off your people.

This is Part I of What I Learned from the WFGC Hotel Project. Part II is also available. Thanks for reading!

 

Serious CircleHi! I’m James Neal, dark fantasy author with a novel on Amazon.

Granted, toilet paper is on there too…

 

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