It’s pretty bad when all of your blog posts start with “Where is…” such-n-such. And so I renamed this post! Oh yeah, look at Mr. Smartypants over here. Let’s not focus on where this mystical book is and take a look at it behind the scenes.
Spoiler warning! This post assumes you’ve read the first book.
If you haven’t read the first book, you can grab it from here: Wrong Divinity: Oh Sh*t! I F*cking Hate Spiders! (Arachnomancer Book 1).
I’ll also be hinting at things in the second book, but I will keep it as spoiler-free as possible. This post is more about my progress, process, and challenges than ruining the fun for when you guys finally get the book.
Table of Contents
This post got pretty long. So feel free to jump to the section you’re most interested in!
- History – Writing Arachnomancer 1
- Progress & Timelines
- Challenges, Challenges, Challenges
- The End (Really? You’re going to skip to the end?)
History – Writing Arachnomancer 1
Let’s start with a bit of history, shall we?
Arachnomancer was not meant to be published under my real name. Having lost my income, I decided it was time to actually publish something. None of my main books—I wrote six novels before Arachnomancer—were ready for prime time or my commitment to their series.
And so I did what every starving artist has thought to do, I created a pen name in order to write something fast, fun, and silly, something that didn’t need to be held at such a high standard.
I’ve studied creative writing for nearly two decades. I built a writing community and ran it for six years. And for the last five years, I invested most of my time studying the craft. I own over 150 books on writing, grammar, style, you name it. The point being, I felt my less-than-perfect work would be good enough.
Here’s a little nugget of wisdom—or dumb-dumb—if you never release your work, you can never be judged by it. You’re always in an amorphous state, shapeless, unformed, indistinct. If your work is not good enough, that’s okay. You can always say, “It’s not done yet!”
But the moment you share your creation, you become it, it becomes you. You cannot hide from the world—or the world’s judgment—anymore.
Unless, of course, you use a pen name.
So back to the story! I intended to write Arachnomancer under a pen name. I created social profiles, a website, and a newsletter for this new identity, my shield from the world. With that foundation in place, I sat down with a silly idea and just had fun with it.
I didn’t have months to plot a story, design a crazy cool world, or meticulously balance a game system. And since I was using a pen name, this was all perfectly fine! I stared at the blank screen, and something came from nothing. You may read this and feel it cheapens the book, but I don’t agree.
I funneled all of my plotting, world-building, and game design experience—and all of my studies—into writing the next sentence. I listened to my instincts. I was in tune with the story and whenever I took the wrong path, I deleted the chapter and tried again. In just under three months—during the holidays with family in town—and in one draft, the book was complete.
Arachnomancer became something completely unexpected. I had a blast writing it and the confidence to believe others would have a blast reading it. So in the end, I did not use a pen name to shield myself from judgment. I’m proud of what the book has become, and I’m excited to release the next one.
Which brings us to . . .
Progress & Timelines
Arachnomancer 2 is currently 72,000 words—and growing—of polished and ready-to-be-published content.
The first Arachnomancer book was 86,000 words long, not counting the front or back matter. All in all, it wasn’t that long of a book and falls short of my typical 100,000-word goal. But if you add in the appendices, this ends up being closer to 93,000 words.
We’re in the final stretch, people! I’ve taken the last few days to read the book, and I think it’s full of a lot of crazy fun. The purpose of reading it was to figure out the best way to end the book that is fun, satisfying, and promises lots more to come.
Now, I fully recognize that the first book took three months and this book is quickly approaching six months. “What the hell happened!” Lots and lots of stuff: audiobook negotiations, publishing Dungeon Runner 1 and 2, marketing efforts, three weeks of family in town, etc. (See Challenges, Challenges, Challenges for more excuses.)
My schedule is constantly changing to better accomplish my goals. And my goals are constantly changing because, I don’t know, I’m crazy. There are things I want to do: write, narrate, paint, compose, program. I’d love to rebuild this website. I’d love to develop a video game. I just don’t have time to do everything and that sucks.
I’ve bounced between low, medium, and high daily word counts more than once. To write fewer words a day frees me up to pursue all the other things I want to create for my books. But this ultimately means fewer books per year, which leads to me making less money and the inability to continue doing what I love.
Content is King. It’s the most important thing for me to be focusing on. As such, I’m currently pursuing a high daily word count: 3,000 new, clean words per day. This is hard for me, but if I can make it work, I’ll have something to publish (Arachnomancer/novel or Dungeon Runner/novella) every month.
So when is Arachnomancer 2 coming?
At this point, it’ll be a miracle to publish this month. It’s possible, but there’s a lot more to publishing a book than just writing it.
Once the story is words complete, I still need to write the front and back matter. When this is done, I’ll perform a proofread to clean up any leftover typos. Then I need to format the eBook, design the cover, write the blurb, choose Amazon categories and keywords, write marketing copy for FB, Reddit, Twitter, my blog, and newsletter.
Oh! I still don’t know what the title is going to be. Yayyy.
I’m aiming for the end of July or early August. What remains tricky here is, I don’t know how long the book will be. If it turns out to be longer than anticipated, that will push the publication date back. Future books, however, should come much quicker and be longer than the first Arachnomancer book.
With all of that said, I have also thrown my deadlines out the window. The dates I’m providing are just ballpark figures. I care much more about producing a good book than a rushed one. If you want to learn more about my deadlines decision, check out this post.
Challenges, Challenges, Challenges
There are a lot of challenges to overcome when you write a book. Most of what I have mentioned thus far are the psychological and business challenges of a new author. The rest of this post will focus on the creative challenges.
In the programming world, there is a concept called tech debt. This is where the technology you use to create solutions, slowly falls into disrepair. Instead of fixing it, companies push their code monkeys to add the next cool feature. The application/game/what-have-you becomes more difficult to develop because a weak foundation yields problematic code, AKA bugs.
In the writing world, there is a concept—probably, or I’m coining it here—called creative debt. It’s very similar. When you set out to write a book, the first one is full of possibilities. You can introduce whatever you want. But everything you write becomes canon, etched in stone.
If you don’t keep meticulous notes on every tiny detail you introduce into your world, you’ll start to develop creative debt. This can make it difficult to write new content, especially if you’re writing more than one story—in more than one world and game system—at a time (like me).
I ran into this problem when I introduced town building. The Dedu Tedu Novus app comes with all sorts of capabilities. And while writing this new content, I completely forgot about the Building app Dhane had used in the first book. Now I need to explain the differences between these apps and how they create buildings. Fun!
The more content you write, the harder it is to keep everything on the same page (literally and figuratively).
I use Notion. It’s a neat—and free if you don’t want their advanced features—application that acts similar to a wiki. You can have all the tables, pages, and images you want, with links that make it easy to jump between related content. I do all of my world-building in Notion and keep notes open for all of my characters.
Open Story Loops
The first Arachnomancer opens a lot of—what authors call—story loops. You can think of them as problems needing solving or questions needing answers. You can also think of them as story promises and directions. If I allude to a special type of dungeon, like the Pit of Trials, I’m making a promise that the story will, eventually, explore such a place.
I purposely wrote Arachnomancer to have a lot of open story loops. I believe this helps the story move in directions the reader cannot fully predict. It also provides me with the most freedom and content to keep the story moving forward in fun ways.
The problem I’ve run into—yay, another lesson for a newb author to learn—is that I introduced too many possible directions. You can’t look at Arachnomancer and say it’s a town builder or a dungeon crawler or a crafting story or a survival story. It’s a hodgepodge of everything.
I think this hurts the story because it doesn’t know what it is. If I invest too many words toward one idea, I’m neglecting something else. If you love the idea of the war and I spend all my time on farming, you’ll probably be disappointed.
And so I paint my face white, put on a red nose, and juggle.
Too Many Damn Ideas!
Given how the first book was written—magic; pure magic—I was beyond worried that I wouldn’t have any more good ideas for the second book. How am I supposed to create something better than the thing that sort of just fell into the right shape?
To solve this problem, I gave myself an entire month off from writing so I could brainstorm fun ideas (and do all the other business things I needed to do). This, obviously, contributed to the second book’s delay, but it also created an abundance of new, funny, fun, and silly ideas.
I filled two entire desks full of index cards. Each card contains a unique idea that I can grab if I need help getting the old creative machine puttering. (I’m not that old, but no one needs to know that.)
We’re talking about a hundred unique ideas as if I really needed that many.
Well, so far, I’ve used about two of them. . . .
The first book was meant to be published under a pen name, which helped me not be overly critical. I kept things loose and silly. But given the success of the first book, there’s now a lot of pressure to write something just as good or better.
I think an author’s worst enemy is themselves. Every chapter of Arachnomancer 2 has been scrutinized for all of its flaws. Paragraphs get rewritten over and over because they don’t work well enough.
One may think that this would lead to some fantastic prose but all the editing adds words. The chapters have gotten longer and denser. It’s a constant struggle to keep things light and moving forward at a nice pace.
When it comes to your critical voice, it’s a balance of creative and critical. I fear I have much to learn in this area.
Story vs Game Mechanics
When it comes to GameLit or LitRPG, readers expect to read about game mechanics. I coined the term GameLit so I completely understand this expectation. I have also played and developed video games for most of my life. I used to build text RPGs in QBasic, and in college, I used Microsoft’s XNA framework to build an Xbox 360 game.
I have a passion for game design and understanding what makes a game fun. But I also have a passion for story. The two can be hard to mix.
Game mechanics require chunks of exposition to ensure the reader understands what is happening. This means the story is not moving forward. The mechanics don’t provide any form of tension. Character sheet stats are also some of the most boring things to listen to (I listen to my fiction).
There needs to be a balance.
Finding that balance is a constant challenge.
Wow! What a lengthy post!
I think I could have broken this up into multiple posts and then dug into the topics a lot more. Story vs Game Mechanics, for instance, has a lot of room for exploration and experimentation. If there is something you’d like me to dig into, reach out to me on Twitter.
I hope you found some of this interesting and insightful. Arachnomancer 2 will be here before you know it. 🙂
Thanks for reading!