The book is done

…well, the first one.

Fingertip sketch - greenIt’s been four years – almost to the day – since I sat at my keyboard and began bringing Tildy to life.

Four years since my finger drew this simple sketch on my phone to imagine what it would be like to see a girl with wings.

I had few goals, and some quantitative ones were unmet. I more than doubled my target word count and it’s taken twice as long to complete as I wanted. But these are less relevant to me than my true storytelling desire: to deliver a tale filled with wonder, discovery, and adventure.

And I think I did it. I really do.

So, Tildy Silverleaf and the Starfall Omen is complete. No more tweaking. No more read-throughs. It’s locked (at least until I start working with some literary pros who are willing to help me publish it – but we’ll let 2020 Mike work on that). I’ll try not to lie awake picturing all the typos I’ve missed.

For now, the completion is a nice Christmas present to myself. But even though we’re in the middle of the holiday season, there’s no rest for your friendly neighborhood writer, is there? The next month will be spent researching agents and working on queries.

And turning my focus to Tildy’s lost brother, Samor.

It’s going to be strange not being with her every day, though I’m excited to explore the northern reaches of Empyrelia with him.

Hers is a world of solitude, hidden away in a garden as likely to kill people as feed them. Things we might call magic are commonplace and she doesn’t really think twice about them. She knows she was lost in the wilderness and adopted by a witch with a reputation darker than the shadows beneath the trees of their haunted forest, but she knows nothing of her own past.

Conversely, he lives in a fortress, surrounded by Humans and other peoples of astounding array. He speaks Dragonroar and spars with an Ogre. Despite living at the edge of the lands known as the Frozen Blight, his is a world filled with life and noise. His is a more privileged upbringing, given that his father is the steward trying to keep Empyrelia stable after the fall of the king. He doesn’t know that his father’s sadness and his mother’s spite come from the fact that they are raising him in their dead son’s name. Similar to his sister Tildy, Samor is being raised in secret; however, he is being groomed to recover the crown that was lost when their parents were killed.

The ability to look at a world from two different points of view is one of the primary reasons I made them twins. I wanted to be able to compare and contrast important cultural norms or their reactions to interesting situations, while also showing how similar two people could be despite vastly different upbringings.

More importantly, perhaps, I thought I had another really good story to tell: Samor and the Warlock of Nevermore.

Thanks for joining me on this journey, whether this is your first day here or your fortieth! If you’re enjoying this peek behind the writer’s curtain, hit the subscribe button or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

And if you’re a fan of Tildy, don’t worry: she will return in the Dungeon of the Dreadwyrm.

Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, December 2019

Author’s Journal – 12-03-19

On Writing

In his book On Writing (which I highly recommend), Stephen King talks about a question he’s often asked. I’m going from memory, but the gist of it is this:

Question: How many days a week do you write?

King: Every day, except holidays and my birthday (btw, that’s a lie because I write those days, too – but no one would believe it).

And while I’m nowhere as dedicated as King, yeah, I write on those days, too. Here’s what happened over my Thanksgiving vacation.


1. I finished up some editing and the last of my punch list items. The punch list was a series of questions I had around consistency, timing, and other details I’d lost track of. The editing centered around plot holes or other things I discovered during my complete read-through.

I’m down to one last fix, and then the draft is final. I spent a few hours on that last item and I think I’ve nearly conquered the problem I identified.

2. I put my agent query on hold until after Jan 1. It came down to two things. First, we’re in the middle of the holiday season. From the research I’ve done over the years, agents – like most of us – are busy. Duh. Despite the timing, I had thought it would feel good to get one submission under my belt before the end of the year.

Since I’m extremely busy in my personal and professional lives, I was struggling to find the time (and brainpower) to give my query the proper attention. So, that’s the second thing. As I mentioned in my 11/25 update, it takes considerable time to wrap up four years of work into a few paragraphs that will convey the love, excitement, and blood/sweat/tears that I’ve put into this story. What’s a couple more weeks when I’ve devoted four years, right?

3. I tinkered with manuscript details again. I know! I know.

But unlike the messing about that I mentioned in my 11/25 update, this was to fix an oversight. I’d set up a bit of fun with Tildy’s departure, which is based on a recurring joke in our family: I had her over-pack. And by “over-pack”, I mean she brought waaaay more stuff than she needed, and the size of her backpack made her unbalanced. And then, I rarely mentioned it again. It’s much like the Chekhov quote I previously wrote about. To summarize, if you set up a gag, it has to pay off. Now, I feel it pays off.

I expect another update in a couple days. Possible topics including finishing the final draft (and getting it printed for some trusted readers); the 4-year anniversary of the project start; and the beginning of the next project, which is Book 2, the first of Samor’s stories (Tildy’s brother).

Good luck with your writing!

Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, December 2019

Author’s Journal – 11-25-19

Journal Entry #3. The Muse is withholding all inspiration until I write another update.

It was a tough writing weekend. Not that I didn’t know what to write. I knew what I had to write; I just didn’t know which words to pick.

1. I spent time on Saturday and Sunday working on a query submission for a local agent. It requires a pitch, synopsis, and other pertinent info. The challenge is in the distilling of 188,000 words into a couple hundred. It’s a great exercise, tbh. It forces you to hone in on the core idea of your story. But…..it’s damn hard, perfectionist desires aside. I’ve spent my adult life editing, dabbled in the restrictive word count of flash fiction, and write with the “Murder your darlings” philosophy. And still I struggle to rein in the information overload.

It comes down to the old saying, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote a long one.” Being succinct is tough, and I get why agents push for it.

Prince Super Bowl performance

2. Monday night, I tinkered with the finished manuscript, like a naughty author. But hey! My book, my rules. Anyway, I was listening to Starfish and Coffee by Prince, and it occurred to me that Tildy shared similar characteristics to Cynthia Rose. They’re both odd ducks and unconcerned with people’s opinions of their quirks.

As a nod to Prince, whom I adore, I gave Tildy mismatched socks like Cynthia wears. Bonus: Here’s the Muppets video I’ll always associate with the song.

Alright, now I can get back to the manuscript and query.

Good luck with your writing!

Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, November 2019

Author’s Journal – 11-17-19

Hey, a second entry in a weekend. Doesn’t make it a trend.

Anyway, I worked on three things Sunday.

1. Wrote the first journal post, capturing the work on Nov 15. Happy with it.

2. Started researching literary agents. Since the process will take months, I might as well start while I’m picking at the last nits in the completed manuscript. I found two agents (in researching twenty) that feel like good fits. One isn’t accepting queries; one is.

3. Started writing my query letter. It’s been years since I’ve submitted one. However, since my past inquiries were for children’s picture books, I’m starting from scratch. Not planning to use the old ones for reference. I’m partway through, and taking a break to type up this quick post.

So, it’s 10:30 on a Sunday night as I wrap this up, though I won’t have it post until the morning. I’m not expecting many readers at this point in the evening. Hopefully, this found you during your morning coffee.

Good luck with your writing!

Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, November 2019

Author’s Journal – 11-15-19

This will never last.

Because I know myself.

There are people who sing the praises of journaling, but I’ve never been able to maintain a diary or similar collection of thoughts. Oh sure, the desire is strong at first. When it becomes work, however, when I’m trying to make time or backfill missed entries, well, then it’s a hassle.

And free time doesn’t get spent on hassles.

With that encouraging preface, I push onward, nonetheless. At the very least, it will amuse me – and perhaps interest you – while it lasts. It’s my intent to keep these simpler and lighter-weight than other blog posts, in which I try convey some interesting update or learning I have had about writing a book. I generally try to edit them for length, content, and grammar, and while the result is more polished, they take time away from other things in my life. For these, I’m looking to knock out a quick post, straight through, with no rewrites and few edits.

Let’s see how it goes.

Friday, November 15, 2019

1. I’m listening to The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss on Audible. I’ll use a future post to gush over it, but as often happens while I’m reading, listening, or watching, I got inspired.

The particular scene included the lute of the character’s father. It made me think about a combining of magic and music, and how might a culture use that for things beyond everyday tasks or entertainment. What if the culture developed an interweaving of art into things like defense or warfare? Of the kinds of art in the world – music, sculpture, painting, etc – what if the people maintained their love and awe of these things, yet used them in practical ways? What if they did these things only because they had to or what if these things were incorporated because they were viewed as another skill, like smithing or bricklaying?

I got to work, wrote a few paragraphs about two cultures’ different approaches, and I added the detail into the appropriate books. Book 2 for the Prince and Book 6 for the Princess. Sorry for the tease.

2. I love cloud storage because it allows me to write at home and on my lunch breaks at work. Sometimes, because technology, a sync doesn’t happen. It often stops me dead because I’m not sure what might be lost. Version control isn’t the issue it once was for me, but it happened again this week. It kept me out of my document for a few days because I was discouraged and didn’t have the energy to address it.

So I made the time on Friday to compare a home copy to a work copy, and then I opened the side file I’d made to work on some complex edits. These were the last changes I’d made to the manuscript, and after a few comparisons, reassured myself that I hadn’t lost anything. Phew.

3. On that same lunch break, I went through my email drafts. I’ve found Outlook is the best for jotting quick notes because I don’t have to wait for another app to open, and it saves regularly. And, if my computer reboots, I know exactly where the files go. Yes, I’m aware that this is a risky – and stupid – system, but c’est la vie. It’s better than the random Post-Its system I used to have.

So, I went looking for a draft I knew had closed, and it resulted in me going through 400-some saved drafts of everything: mostly work stuff, a WIP for an anniversary card note, grocery lists, and well, many other things. And about 20 of the aforementioned writing drafts.

I spent the rest of lunch combining them, deleting what I didn’t need, and fleshing out a couple interesting thoughts. I suppose a similar task awaits me in Evernote, but that’s a chore for another day.

Well, a lot more happened on Friday than I’d expected. It is nice to be reassured that you’ve been productive and completed some tasks, which is one of the reasons for starting up this series of journal-themed posts. It also seems an interesting way to chronicle ideas that come to me, sparse in detail they might be here. #spoilers

And that’s a day in the life of a writer. It’s not always the fun of pure creativity, but I believe that finding value in the work can be equally rewarding, if you appreciate it.

Good luck with your writing!

Mike


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© Michael Wallevand, November 2019

A Good Word Is Hard To Find

fun fact - the word setI’m an English major and a writer, which means there’s a notebook on a dusty bookshelf in the attic of my brain that is set aside for fun words. It also means I just wrote a long sentence instead of saying “I collect words.” We’ll delve into that compulsion in a future post.

I was listening to an online session yesterday and one of the presenters used an interesting word I hadn’t heard before. She used it twice, before finally defining it for us with an apology that she had to look it up, too.

What is the word? I couldn’t tell, which meant it was complex, rather difficult to say, esoteric, and oh so tantalizing.

In her context, it meant temporarily joining another team at work to complete a project. She still technically worked for the same manager, but all her duties were tied to this second team.

Since I love words (did I establish that?) and since I couldn’t spell it to write it down, I thought to Google it by the definition this morning.

Easier said than done. Continue reading

12 Content Tips To Make Consumers Love You

I’m a product marketing manager by day, which means I spend a considerable portion of my time reading, writing, reviewing, editing, and giving feedback on content (judgment-free!). As such, I have regular opportunities to witness great – and not so great – ways of presenting written content to consumers. Sometimes of my own creation.

Here are twelve items that might help you with your content strategy, whether you’re marketing your book or a widget you sell. I originally assembled this list four years ago, and these tips are as true today as they were then.


1. Is your content bragging about your abilities and services?

  • Consumers want to trust you. But people are turned off by content that’s mostly sales pitch or just talks about how great your book is.
  • Quality content shows that you understand your audience’s needs, not just your own abilities.

2. Did you focus more on SEO keywords than quality content?

keyword stuffing, keyword stuffing and yes, keyword stuffing

  • As a writer and someone in the online marketing biz, this content stands out to me like Waldo in a penguin colony. It’s repetitive and reads like the writer just bought a thesaurus: Do you like to travel to exotic places? How would you like a vacation to an unexplored world? Here at Journeyman Travel, we can jet you off to distant lands! You’ll voyage to foreign countries in one of our exclusive Exotic Vacation Destination packages! That is a content turkey stuffed with artificially-flavored keywords.
  • To avoid unnatural-sounding sentences, write for humans, not computers. Quality content that engages people will build authority and trust, something that search engines reward. Learn more about Semantic Search.

Continue reading