Sunday, June 26, 2016

Age of Myth and the new series

Age of Myth is being released Tuesday. It’s my eleventh published novel. I still don’t have a midnight release party, not sure who to call about that.

This will be my first full-blown series since Royce and Hadrian were asked to steal a sword and my hardcover debut. As a result, I thought I ought to take a little time and explain a bit about the book, what it’s like, how I came to write it, and how the whole thing went off the rails just before it took off.

With the publication of Heir of Novron, which completed my Riyria Revelations series back in 2012, I didn't anticipate writing another fantasy novel, much less more Royce and Hadrian books. I never set out to be a “fantasy author,” that’s just how things turned out. Can’t complain. The coin derived from the jobs Royce and Hadrian performed have made my life quite comfortable.

My wife, and numerous readers, lobbied successfully for another R&H book and got two in the form of the Chronicles prequels. Already having the characters, the setting, and much of the story done, made that choice an easy one. Also, a critic once argued that it was impossible that two such diverse people as Royce and Hadrian could ever have come together as a team—the premise of Revelations was flawed because the critic couldn't imagine a way in which such a thing could happen. Couldn’t let that slide. There were other questions too, I decided to answer them in the Chronicles.

After that, I finally got the chance to do something different.

I wrote a science fiction novel entitled, Hollow World. While HW was a financial success, garnered some rave reviews, and has even been taught in a couple of colleges, it hasn’t seen the same popularity as the Riyria works. So when the question of what I would do next came up I settled on a middle ground—something old and something new.

When I conceived the world of the Riyria Revelations, I knew it had several distinct parts: the ancient world of the First Empire, the Empire Years that ends in the Fall of Percepliquis, the Intervening Years where the heir and his guardian were hiding (which includes the Rise of Glenmorgan), and finally the completion of the Uli Vermar as seen in the Riyria Revelations. Each of these eras are filled with great stories, and I always played with the idea of writing something along the lines of Issac Asimov’s work where he joins his stories across millenniums.  I loved the way Asimov linked everything so that as a reader you could see the full development, reminisce about how it once was, and see how those seeds blossomed into what everything became. Even when I was started to write The Crown Conspiracy, and the idea of getting published or having anyone at all read my stories was a pipe dream, I arrogantly imagined that I might write the whole history of the world, or at least the big three eras: The First Empire, the Fall of the Empire, and Revelations (or the Return of the Empire.)

That’s why when it came time to pick my next project, I decided to write the First Empire.

Walking to lunch with my wife I explained my vague idea for the books: “It will be about this guy, the field commander of an elite platoon in a foreign country, who starts to go native. He’ll be like Robin Hood with this band of specialized men. Maybe it will be a love triangle between this commander—who’s like a Roman general in Britannia (maybe I’ll call him Trajan), and this native popular resistance leader who is like the Celtic Queen Boudica, and a native hero—think William Wallace. Each needs the others, but hate them at the same time and manipulate and maneuver to get what they want.”

I thought this was a nifty idea.

I also thought I would call the book Rhune, after what most humans in that area were called at the time. In case you’re wondering if I just gave away the plot of Age of Myth—nope. That was where I started. That’s not where I ended up—not by a long shot.

Some authors are discovery writers, meaning that they just start writing and see where the story goes. I used to do that too, but learned that it was impossible to write a perfect book making it up as I went. Invariably I would discover things on the way that made previous work obsolete or useless, forcing me to re-write. Hemingway is attributed to having said, “All writing is rewriting,” but there are a lot of quotes like this by famous authors. I once told a fellow author that I was editing my book, and she looked at me funny. “My editor edits; I rewrite.” This made me self-conscious because only once have I ever rewritten a novel, and as it turned out I trashed it as unacceptable. Rewriting an awful idea still makes for an awful book.

The concept of writing a whole novel, then tossing it aside and writing it all over again, then doing it a third and fourth time in an effort to “find” the story, strikes me as about as intelligent as building a house not merely without plans, but without any idea of what sort of house it should be. Seems to me that deciding a few things on paper first would save years, money, and resources.

Some say that if they know where the story is going they lose interest in writing it—yet I don’t see how that helps if as a result they are forced to rewrite. So when I decided I wanted to write for a living, I figured it was best not to waste so much time re-writing. Instead, I thought ahead and worked the big things out. Some people call this outlining, but it is never anything as grand as that sounds. Some people outline so much that they can write out of order. I find that bizarre too, as a lot of writing is done by feel, and too much outlining will often contrive a plot and result in wooden characters who rather than act like people, follow the outline.

What I do—I realize now—is rewriting, just not on paper. I rewrite in my head.

I run the story through my mind in storyboard form—picturing the key points, the highlights. I find problems. I can then erase what was and replace it with what should be in an instant. Mentally I write and rewrite the plot points, characters, settings, and even some dialog. When I hit issues, or dead ends, or think of something better, it is an easy thing to alter the story. People, places, and things come into existence and wink out just as quickly.

This is what I did with Age of Myth—and in the process the story and characters changed—a lot.

Characters came and went. Scenes were fleshed out, altered, rebuilt, and finally tossed. I most likely rewrote Myth a dozen different ways before I ever put pen to paper. Even so, even after all that I still didn’t have it right.

Tomorrow: All the Stuff I Did Wrong


  1. I really enjoyed the Revelations series, and am looking forward to getting to read the Chronicles series. And this one too of course.
    I love hearing about your writing process, especially since that's how I tend to function with my writing with figuring out the key points and then mentally building it from there.

  2. I think this really goes well with your "Making of" reward from the Death of Dulgath! Great to read it :)

  3. Well done Michael, more power to you. When you know the ending you're onto a winner.