Non-sequential writing

This last weekend I finished a rough, rough draft of Book 2, my sequel to Renaissance Calling. It took a lot longer to finish than I expected, in part because I had to learn how to write a book in a  non-sequential fashion. Between the length of time Book 2 covers (a year as opposed to two and a half months) and the need to fit fourteen backer-created characters into the story, writing the story from start to finish wouldn’t work, unless I was willing to write out a 300,000 word monster of a rough draft. So I started jumping around, writing scenes as I had them and working from both ends towards the middle.

Like a pyramid being built without finishing the foundation.

It was interesting and frustrating, with a lot of false starts and dead ends, but ultimately it got me to the end of the rough draft and into revisions. As I move on with both this book and other projects, I want to take a moment and share with you some lessons about non-sequential writing I’ve taken from the experience.

Start at both ends and work to the middle

Starting at both ends and working towards the middle was the first thing I started doing. It made sense, since I knew how the story began and ended. Working from both directions, I can approach any problem I came across from either the front or the back. Sometimes I had to solve problems by writing the solution first, and building up to it.

Keep an eye out for lessons the protagonist needs to learn

By writing the end I gained a huge advantage; I figured out what the character needs to experience to have the impact I need her to have at the climax of the story. That helped me figure out what I needed to show the reader, versus what I could tell the reader. It’s a huge benefit to non-sequential writing to know what you don’t have to write.

Write scenes independently; don’t worry about flow

By flow, I mean the attention of the reader as they go from one chapter to another. I quickly stopped paying attention to flow for my rough draft. Scenes begin and end rather abruptly. Annoying, yes, but finishing the overall story was the main goal. Working on the flow is for the revision phase.

Don’t describe a secondary character when you first write him/her:

Jumping back and forth, I had no idea when this character or that character was going to be introduced. The first few times I wrote a character I included a description, but several times I later wrote them in an earlier scene. So I stopped writing descriptions. Instead, I’m saving the description until afterwards, then I’ll add them when I know where their first appearance is.

Keep a list of ‘Bits to Add’

Instead of jumping around to fix things every time they come up, I’ve been keeping a separate document where I write down the ideas I want to return to. The point is to get the side-thoughts out of the way without interrupting the work on whichever scene I’m focusing on at the time. There will be enough time to fix everything later.


I’ve already started applying these lessons to other projects. It’s really helpful to get things moving when something is getting stuck, or simply to just get words down and counted. One project in particular covers almost a decade of time, and already I’m making huge strides in it because of these lessons.

Have any thoughts or tips of you own? Feel free to let me know.

And as always, keep on writing.

Goals for 2018

I didn’t mean to wait until halfway through January to post about my 2018 goals, but somehow that happened. In some way, the lateness flows into my main goal for 2018: to be more of a writer.

I don’t just mean write more, though I do want to do that. What I mean is I want to be involved in the writing community more. I know people who get short stories published and set up literary events. I want to go to more conventions and blog more.

A friend has said several times that self-publishing is like a business, you have to work on it every day. While I am proud of my accomplishments as a writer in 2017, I can’t say I have stepped up to that challenge. So my goals for 2018 have to do with improving that.

Specific Goals for 2018

Attend four conventions: I am already signed up for Manticon 2018. I want to find three others to sell my books at.

Blog regularly: There are a lot of things I want to blog about, so I’m going to have to make this a priority. I’m already using a habit website to help me track a lot of improvements for 2018, including blogging.

Publish Book 2: I want to get Book 2 out and get started on Book 3.

Finish my fantasy Trilogy: I have finished Book 1 of a fantasy trilogy, and I want to finish the whole thing before I start revising and editing. I want to work on that some.

Find and take advantage of other opportunities: Going to require some research, but there’s no reason I can’t get into more writing relating groups, organizations, etc.

Simple, right? At least on paper. There’s still a lot of work to do on all of them in execution, but I’m ready for the task. To the writing-mobile!


Birthday Check In

Yes, it’s my birthday. And since it’s been a while since I posted, I wanted to take this opportunity to check in and let you all know I’m still here, working hard on Book 2.

Book 2 is largely outlined, with only a few gaps to connect. I’ve got about 70,000 words written and plugged into yWriter. And I’ve got all the Kickstarter-created characters figured out. All in all, it’s just some hard work to get the draft finished.

I’ll try to post more on here in the future, but it might be spotty until Book 2’s rough draft is done.

In the meantime, Happy Birthday to me! Last year I had just finished my Kickstarter campaign and was happily on my way to publishing Renaissance Calling. What a good year it’s been.


Book and Beer Pop-Up Bookstore

This last Sunday I had a chance to join more than twenty other authors as the Books and Beer Pop-Up Bookstore, held at the Blackstack Brewery in St. Paul.

The format for the event is pretty simple. First, it takes place at a brewery. The authors, all local Minnesotans, get a portion of a table, enough to see up some books and a few display bits. Patrons can come to drink beer and mingle with the authors, buying books and taking cards as they see fit. And there you have it: a Pop-Up Bookstore.

It only lasted five hours, but with about 25 authors there, there was a lot to see.

A picture from the event, posted by Books and Beer on Facebook.

I didn’t get around to giving everyone the attention they deserved, but I did see enough to appreciate the broad range of authors there. My table alone had gothic horror (written by an author who graduated from my high school one year after I did), and a techno-thriller book. I also saw horror comedy, children’s books, and historical fiction set in ancient Egypt. There was something for everyone.

I certainly enjoyed myself. I got to try some new beer, and meet a number of local authors. We traded writing stories and tips to get around writer’s block, inspirations and problems we’ve faced as authors. I got some resources and ideas for social media and other events to check out. And I got some people interested enough to buy my book.

I look forward to doing more of these Pop-Up Bookstore events in the future. The coordinator wants to keep the authors cycling through, so I probably won’t have a table at the next one, but I’ll still stop by.  It is always fun to meet other authors, and see what they’ve created.

Books and Beer

I’ve got a table at an upcoming Books and Beer Pop-up Bookstore.

When: Sunday, August 6th, beginning tat 1 PM.

Where: BlackStack Brewing, 755 Prior Avenue North, St. Paul.

Join me at at least 24 other Minnesotan authors. Finds some drinks, start some conversations, and support your local writers.

I’m looking forward to it. Hope to see you there!

Lonely Road

I have a Saturday morning writing group that I attend most weekends. It is a pretty simple setup: rounds of 1 to 6 minutes of writing to a prompt, then passing a microphone and reading. I usually just write something to each prompt individually, but I’ve been wanting to challenge myself to write to a theme throughout the day, telling a single story of a person or place. Other people do that at the group, and it can be fun to see them work everything together.

This is my attempt. I really didn’t expect it to turn out so ‘Hotel California’, but I am pretty proud of it.

Down along Lonely Road

Down along Lonely Road are a surprisingly large number of bright lights. You’d think a road named Lonely would be dark and depressing, but in fact it’s quite lively. Street clowns perform tricks and make balloon animals, as windows invite pedestrians into shops selling food or clothes, arcades full of games, and dance clubs from hip-hop to Charleston.

There are lots of stories about why it was called Lonely Road. Named after some forgotten tycoon, or a mispronunciation of some foreign word. No one really knew, and the stories became part of each shop’s mystique.

On Lonely Road, one is always surrounded by people, lights and noise. It’s a difficult place to be lonely, but some people still try.

North Face

One of the biggest shops on Lonely Road is the North Face Hat, Mask and Sunglasses Shop. There, one can buy any sort of headwear one wants. Sunny day, buy some sunglasses. Need a tribal mask, there is a floor for that, too.

The owner, Timothy North, says Lonely Road came from one tree that used to stand in the middle of the field. The road came by, and as it was the only landmark, it became Lonely Tree Road, eventually shortened to just Lonely Road.

The tree was cut down oe died, but he saved some of the wood to make masks. He sold hundreds of authentic, lonely tree masks, not at all made in China. Someday he’ll run out, but somehow he’s always managed to find one more when needed.

The train was coming into the station, and . . .

At the end of Lonely Road, the train was coming into the station, and once again, no crowds waited to get on. A hundred people got off, welcomes by clowns and announcers, shuffling on the sidewalks of Lonely Road, awed by the lights. But no crowds boarded before the train took off.

Endless Blue Sky

From the tallest point on Lonely Road, on the top of the North Face Building, one could see the endless blue of sky. No mountains, no cities, no landmarks of any kind. Just unbroken horizon.

The road, beginning at the train station, stretched off at the other side. At the edge of town sits a sign post, boasting several dozen cities. All the arrows point down the road, with a question mark for each distance.

No clouds, no contrails, no birds. Endless blue sky.

Raptor’s Noise

There are odd shops along Lonely Road.

A raptor’s noise sounds off when you enter Dino Dave’s Zoon, with all sorts of mythological and extinct animals roaming the floors. No cages keep the crows from enjoying the animals up close.

Then there is Papa Paddington’s Puppet Palace, where Old Man Paddington makes thousands of dolls. Many look like pedestrians that once walked along Lonely Road, but have long since moved on. The details are exquisite, even the eyes that follow patrons through the store.

Multiple People Later

Parties raged all along Lonely Road. At every venue, multiple people would dance and drink, and agree to meetup at another club just down the road. But by that club, new groups formed, old friends forgotten.

‘One more! One More, then back to the hotel!’ was a common cry. No one asked how a three-story hotel held so many people, and few even remembered their room number. When they did, it was always 2B.

We can edit that out.

Photographers prowled the road, taking pictures with archaic flashbulbs. ‘No, they are digital cameras,’ they claimed, ‘we just made them look old. Worried about a picture? We can edit it out. We are professionals.’

One pedestrian requests an obnoxious looking man with an ice cream cone be taken out of the picture. The photographer uses a pencil and erases the man from the photo. The pedestrian smiles, while down the road an ice cream cone suddenly falls to the pavement.

Writing Combat: Introduction

In my recently published book, Renaissance Calling, I have no less than ten fights. These range from one-on-one fisticuffs to small battles. Fighting of one sort or another is prominent in most of the stories I’m working on, so I’ve got some experience in planning and writing fighting and combat scenes.

I’ve been meaning to write an article on this for some time, but there’s so many thoughts and concepts floating around that it’s been hard to organize, so I’m switching playbooks.

Instead of one long article, I’m going to write several, with no expected number planned. I might write about something I’m currently working on, or something I’ve done. One post will be about planning battles from the eyes of the generals, another about what a character might be feeling during combat.

The idea is, instead of trying to shove everything into one article, to focus on one idea per post, and really get into it, allowing each idea to be entertained in depth.

Why Combat? – Because I know it

For a first article, I figured I would discuss the obvious first question: why so much fighting?

I’m a military historian by education, growing up with access to my dad’s Civil War books. I grew from looking at pictures to reading the stories, evolving into an interest in both personal accounts and primary sources on one hand, and the overall philosophy and culture of war on the other.

And of course, I consume a significant amount of fictional media on the subject. Books, movies and video games are plentiful, though I can find as much fault with a lot of them (both in terms of combat and in terms of story-telling) as I can enjoy them. Roleplaying games are also heavily combat oriented, which means on game night, we’re probably going to fight.

So for better or worse, fighting is something that features in almost all of my stories.

Also – Excitement

As a last minute addition to this article, I wanted to say one more thing about writing combat. As I’m working on book two, I’ve had to contend with worrying about keeping the book exciting. Yes, not all drama in a book has to come from battle, but it helps to have the option, if only to vary the source of the drama.

Being in a situation where fighting can happen for various reasons (as I had in Renaissance Calling) allowed me to use combat to control the excitement. A bandit here, a betrayal there, I could count on fighting to give me control over the story. In most of my planned projects this is possible, though I do not want to make it the soul source of excitement.


Anyway, I know this is a short article, but I didn’t want to make it long just for the sake of making it long. This is only an introduction, after all.


Choosing Projects

I want to take a moment and write about the projects I’m working on. Specifically, about how I decide what projects to focus on and which ones to put on hold.

In preparation for this article, I sat down and worked out every project that I’ve done some work on. This does not include passing ideas that I’ve thought about, only things where I have put something on paper or saved to the cloud. The question was ‘How many books am I trying to write?’

I came up with 29 distinct projects, some organized into larger fictional worlds, while others are standalone books. And while I was coming up with this list, I found that I might be able to condense a number of the fantasy and science fiction projects into fewer projects. But for the purposes of this article, I’m going to continue with the original 29 projects.

12 of those projects I hadn’t done enough work to figure out how many books they might turn into, and two of them are strings of short stories that would probably just be anthologized. So, of the remaining 15 projects, how many books are planned?

38 books.

That’s quite a lot. That’s more books than years I’ve lived. So I better get writing.

Seriously, though, looking at this list of projects, I’m already sure a lot of them aren’t going to get written. Not because I don’t want to write them, but because I probably just don’t have the time. It’s one of the reasons I try to set a lot of my fantasy and science fiction stories in the same universe; so I can re-use the same geography, politics and mythologies in different stories.

Just for fun, the numbers of projects by genre:

  • Speculative fiction (3 projects)
  • Fantasy (10 projects))
  • Science fiction (9 projects)
  • Historical Fiction (5 projects)
  • Other (2 projects)

Main Focus

My main focus right now is on the Renaissance Army series, which counts for three of the projects and ten books (seven main-line books, two short-story anthologies and a prequel). Even then, it wouldn’t surprise me if I find other stories to tell in the world. In fact, I’m almost certain I do, I just haven’t gotten to them yet.

My goal with the seven main-line books is to publish one a year. Now that I’ve got Renaissance Calling under my belt, I feel pretty confident I can get those seven books out. I don’t know that it’ll be one a year, but I mean to give it a go. I’ve been paying attention to my process, figuring out how I can outline better, paying attention to what trips me up or disrupts my process. Basically becoming more proficient.

The Great Fantasy Series

My secondary focus is what I’m calling the Orc-kin series, a set of seven trilogies that follow half-orc characters through the centuries of a fantasy world. I’ve written the first book, and I’m writing the second, with others being aggressively outlined as I go. At the very least I’d like to publish the first trilogy. I might not go so far as to publish all seven trilogies, but outline them all and then only publish the best ones. I don’t know yet.

Write me! Write me!

How do I decide what else to do?

That is the question, ultimately, of this post. I have so many ideas, things I honestly believe are good stories. How do I decide which ones to write?

When I look at the other projects, I imagine all the work I need to do to bring them to fruition, and it can get a little daunting. Though depending on the genre, maybe for different reasons.

With the Fantasy projects, I can get all but one of the projects into the same world, but one of them is going to be stand alone. That certainly makes world-building easier. It’s more likely I’ll publish a fantasy story next.

Science Fiction can be difficult because so much of the science fiction I’ve been reading has been particularly heavy on the science (see David Weber’s Honorverse or Andy Weir’s The Martian). I imagine my own science fiction will have less math in it, and more fiction. Although I have been using the Kerbal Space Program to learn orbital mechanics.

Historical Fiction is one area I know I want to write more on. But it requires so much research to feel comfortable writing a historical book. I know I want to try to get one out, but there’s a lot of research to be done.

You didn’t answer the question: how do I decide what to do?

Oh, you noticed that, did you?

The fact is, I’m not sure which project (other than the Renaissance Army series) I will focus on next. Yes, I’m one book into the first fantasy trilogy, but I want to write the whole thing out before I revise, so I’m two books away from advancing that series. I have a lot of resources for the historical fiction books, but I haven’t gone through them and organized them. And I keep getting worried about the science in my science fiction stories.

So, the answer is, honestly, whatever I end up working on. Other than the Renaissance Army series, I end up jumping from project to project pretty quickly, working when inspiration strikes me. For all I know, I’ll have a burst of insight and speed write a science fiction book for NANOWRIMO. We’ll see.

In the mean time, I’m making progress on Book 2.

Thanks for reading!


Manticon 2017

During Memorial Day weekend, I had the opportunity to have a table at Manticon 2017 in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Manticon is a military sci-fi convention that draws a modest and enthusiastic crowd. Based off the Honorverse books of David Weber (of which I am an avid reader), the convention included a charity auction, panels on various topics of interest, and a game room that includes Artemis and Battletech simulators.

As this was my first fandom convention (aside from an hour spent at a very minor Star Trek con to see Leonard Nemoy and William Shatner speak in 2006), I didn’t sign up for any panels or games. I didn’t sign up for anything, preferring to leave my schedule open, as I didn’t know what to expect. The woman who got me into the convention asked me to make two cheesecakes for the con-suite, which I did (salted caramel and peanut butter cup). There were no leftovers.

My Table at Manticon

My table was a simple affair, particularly on the first day where it was only my book displays and a pile of business cards. After talking it over with two fellow authors at the convention, I added a hand-traced map of the Kingdom of North Mississippi and a newsletter sign up page.

That's a well-traced map.
My setup at the Manticon convention.

Yes, it was not particularly flashy, but without knowing what a convention table was like, I didn’t know what sort of stuff to invest in. Luckily, the other two authors with their tables in the same area were willing to give me some advice on what to do at future cons.

As for location, well, it was pretty much in the middle. It was right in front of the elevator bank, between the panel rooms and the main / vendor rooms. Pretty much everyone going to the convention at some point passed my table, usually many times. I got a lot of people stopping by to talk with me and look over my book. It was quite nice to get such a warm reception.

Being At Manticon

I admit I was a bit apprehensive about being in a public place for so long while trying to get people interested enough in my book to buy it from me. I’m a bit of an introvert (maybe more than a bit), and I’ve never been a particularly good salesperson.

That being said, I have been feeling rather confident lately. And I read a few ‘how to do X as an extrovert’ books, which mostly boiled down to be comfortable and don’t try to be something you’re not. So I put out my display and engaged people who stopped to take a look.

As I mentioned above, the people gave me a warm reception. A lot of people stopped by to learn about me and my book, and I conversed in kind. I had an hour-long conversation with one young woman about storytelling in media, including some shared video game experiences and the advantages that the Star Trek Animated Series had in its stories. Some people were genuinely intrigued by my concept and excited to buy my book.

The Manticon patrons wore uniforms, ranging from technician jump suits to resplendent admiral’s uniforms. They came in from all over the world: I spoke with someone who flew in from Scotland, and there was a group from an Eastern European country that I didn’t meet but heard them conversing.

I did not attend any panels or join in the simulator games. This was my first convention, so I decided to ease into it and I did not want to over-schedule myself. I was there to be an author and do the author thing.

And it went well. I missed my sales goal by one, and ran out of business cards. Totally calling it a win.

Beyond the Convention

I spent the days at the table, but the nights hanging out with the patrons.

The convention rented out a number of rooms (maybe an entire floor, I’m not sure) for their post convention parties. Consuite had food and a assortment of drinks themed off the books. There was Marine Country, where the Marine fans congregated with their own bar (visited by Dale Dye, who stole the show). There was a Scotch room (which I visited) and a Klingon room (which I didn’t get around to).

I got to speaking to a few people (again hanging out with Dale Dye a bit), relaxing to the point where I could enjoy myself. I had stop drinking early, since I had to drive across the cities to get home, but it was definitely a good party atmosphere. Next time I’ll see if I can’t get a room to avoid an hour of transit every day.

Lessons for Future Conventions

The first lesson is I’m going to admit is; I need a flashier set up. It doesn’t have to be over-the-top, but enough to catch people’s attention. I’ve got some ideas, but I haven’t ordered anything yet. I’m waiting a week to go over my brainstorming list and see what makes it through round two.

Second lesson: get on a panel or two. One of the other authors at the event had two, and he said he had some good discussions with patrons about his topics. Next time, I’ll see what is available.

Third: get a room there if feasible. Not only can I remain longer in the evening, I can avoid a long morning commute.


Did I have fun? Absolutely.

Did I meet some cool people? I did. In addition to Dale Dye, I got David Weber to sign two books. I met a group of people I’m excited to join. And I got to  see people get excited by my book.

Am I looking forward to future cons? I am. I don’t know when the next one is, but I’ll let you know when I have future appearances scheduled.

For now, I’m concentrating on Book 2. Maybe I can have it ready by Manticon 2018.

Thanks for reading!