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October 2018: Update

Ah, October. The spookiest month of the year, and the best time to work on novels with horror and suspense elements. It’s around this time last year that I started writing “The Gloaming”; it’s only fitting I should start writing a prequel on the anniversary of its inception.

A New Project: “The Wereforest Academy”

Yes, you read that correctly. For the past few weeks, I have been hard at work on a standalone prequel for “The Gloaming”. I came up with the idea for the prequel soon after finishing the draft of the main book, but I intended to delay writing it until after said book was published. However, due to some issues with editing “The Gloaming” (which I’ll explain shortly), I decided it was better to start sooner rather than later.

“The Gloaming” Update

Despite my best efforts, I haven’t made much progress with “The Gloaming”. I’ve made all the basic changes I needed to, but cutting the word count has proven much more difficult than expected. I managed to get rid of 3,000 words (leaving me with 170k), but after that, everything I tried was a disaster. Every chapter has at least 3 reasons for being there, and deleting one created a whole host of problems I wasn’t prepared for. By the time I finished implementing all the changes, I was left with 9 major plot holes and a substandard story that was still 40,000 words longer than it ought to be.

In light of this, I’ve decided to temporarily put “The Gloaming” on hold, rather than waste hundreds of hours trying to fix the length issue when I could be working on something more productive. My plan at the moment is to finish one (or more) of my other WIPs and try to get them published first. If they’re successful, agents and publishers are more likely to grant me some leeway in terms of word count for future books (i.e. “The Gloaming”). Even if I don’t achieve any significant success with those other books, by the time I’ve finished and published them, there’s a good chance I will have found a way to solve the length conundrum without destroying the story.

Goals Achieved This Month

  • Completed a new 140k version of “The Gloaming” (a failed experiment; at least I tried)
  • Wrote a new short story and started editing it
  • Re-wrote one chapter of “The Rabbit in the Moon”
  • Wrote a 61,000-word first draft of “The Wereforest Academy”
  • Re-wrote 4 chapters of “The Wereforest Academy”

As you can see, I didn’t meet my goals from last month, mainly because my goals changed. As I said on Twitter, working on “The Rabbit in the Moon” was like drawing blood out of a stone, which is why I abandoned my goal of re-writing ten chapters and moved onto something more productive.

That’s all the news I have for this month but hopefully I’ll have something more significant to report next time.

Sincerely,

J. R. Schuyler

September 2018 Update

Hi everyone! It’s been another busy month, so let’s get right into it.

“The Gloaming” Update

Earlier in the month, I sent my manuscript to some more beta readers. They gushed over it and said it was flawless and not to change anything. I was ecstatic! But also suspicious. It couldn’t really be ready, could it? Not just like that. Uncertain, I sent it off to another beta reader and set to work writing my first real query letter and synopsis. I managed to get my 173,000-word story down into a 6000 word summary. Then a 3000 word summary. I kept narrowing it down, leaving out subplots when necessary, and managed to narrow it down to a sub-400 word summary. I was proud of myself and rightly so. But at the same time, I came to realise something. Something I’ve known deep down for a while now.

My manuscript is too long.

Not too long for self-publishing, because then you can do whatever you want. But I’ve set my sights on traditional publishing. Why? Marketing and distribution. Publishers have the knowledge, experience, and contacts to get my book into the hands of readers, and they can do it far better than I ever could on my own. But I digress…

My final beta reader of the month came through for me in a major way. She loved the book, too, but she also gave me some excellent advice on how I could fix things, including the gargantuan length.

I’m fairly confident I can cut 30,000 words by removing all subplots bar two, bringing me down to 143,000 words. The remaining two subplots are difficult to cut. The first one has to stay because the main plot can’t be resolved without it. The second is less vital but still important. The last time I tried to cut it out, the whole story fell flat on its face. But hey, we’ll see what happens.

Other Writing

I’ve worked on other projects this month, too. Namely:

  • I edited a bit more of “The Astral Entity”.
  • I rewrote the first chapter of “The Rabbit in the Moon”. I would have achieved more, but there were some teething issues regarding the main character’s “voice” and deciding who my target audience should be.
  • I wrote, edited, and submitted a short story to a literary magazine.
  • I submitted a flash fiction story to another literary magazine.
  • I wrote outlines for two standalone novels set in the Gloaming.

Goals for October

  • Re-draft “The Gloaming” in its entirety, removing and/or replacing some of the major plot lines and filling the inevitable plot holes that arise because of the reconstruction.
  • Rewrite ten more chapters of “The Rabbit in the Moon”.
  • Write, edit, and submit another short story to a SFWA-approved market.

Sincerely,

J. R. Schuyler

July/August 2018 Update

Hello everyone! It’s been a productive couple of months for me, hence why my update is so late. To summarise:

  • I finished editing Part 3
  • I received feedback from my first round of beta readers
  • I edited the entire novel again, making over 1000 changes

I’m preparing to send my manuscript to a fresh set of beta readers within the next few weeks. Hopefully there will be fewer things to fix this time!

Most of the changes I made were small, such as rewording sentences for maximum clarity and deleting unnecessary words (adverbs, crutch words, excessive gestures/facial expressions). Other changes were more significant—cutting subplots, expanding on key scenes, and ensuring character consistency. Would the average reader care about any of these changes? Probably not. But I care, and that’s reason enough to make them.

To Split or Not to Split: Redux

I’ve come up with some more solutions to the splitting issue I talked about in my last post. I’ve done some research into publishers and agents, and my current plan is to leave the book as-is. There are a significant number who either:

  • Accept longer manuscripts around 170k; or
  • Accept shorter manuscripts around 50k

That means I can (theoretically) submit the full manuscript to publishers in the first group and the manuscript for Part 1 to publishers in the second group. Each “part” has it’s own complete story arc, so it could work as a trilogy. With that in mind, I think it would be premature to conduct major surgery on a novel that might not need it. I’ll reassess the situation as it progresses.

The One-Day Draft

I took a day off from my main WIP yesterday to start the first draft of a new book. That was the idea, anyway. Instead of merely starting the draft, I ended up writing the whole thing. It’s only about 15k words (more of a detailed outline than anything else), but I’m pleased with how things are shaping up.

That’s all the news I have for now, but I’m sure I’ll have something more interesting to report next month. Stay tuned!

Sincerely,

J. R. Schuyler

 

June 2018 Update

Remember last month when I said I had a plan to sort out part 3 of “The Gloaming”? Yeah… That plan didn’t work out so well. However, I’ve come up with another plan and everything seems to be going smoothly now. Smoothly for me, anyway. Not so much for my poor characters. Their final battle against the tyrannical king is underway, and there are going to be some serious consequences for the world at large.

Now that the end is in sight, I’ve been thinking about how to make the manuscript more appealing to agents and publishers. So far, I’ve identified two potential issues: length and target audience.

To Split or Not to Split

The current word count for “The Gloaming” is around 180,000 words (approx. 600 pages). Not unusual for a fantasy novel, but a hard sell for a previously unpublished author. The easiest solution would be to split the book into a trilogy; it’s already divided into three parts, so it wouldn’t take too much effort. From a business standpoint, a trilogy makes more sense than a standalone.

However, from an artistic standpoint, keeping it as one book might be better. The protagonist gets older over the course of the story; he’s ten years old in part 1, thirteen in part 2, and seventeen in part 3. Cognitively speaking, there is a huge developmental leap between those ages and, as a result, the main character might feel like a different person to the reader. If all three parts are in one book, continuity will probably offset the initial jarring feeling. But if the reader has to wait months for the next instalment to come out, they might wonder who this strange “new” protagonist is.

At this point, I’m leaning towards a single book, but it’s too early to make a definite decision. I will seek advice from industry professionals before I commit one way or the other.

Target Audience

The “age jumps” I mentioned before also put my book in an odd position from a marketing standpoint. “The Gloaming” doesn’t fit neatly into the MG or YA categories. I believe 13- to 14-year-old boys are the demographic most likely to enjoy this book, but an agent/publisher might disagree with me. According to a lot of writing advice websites, kids and teenagers don’t want to read about characters younger than themselves. Despite the prevalence of this advice, I have to respectfully disagree.

People generally choose a book because they’re interested in the story, not because of the protagonist’s age. The reason children and teenagers are more likely to choose a book with a same-age/older protagonist is because those protagonists are more likely to be dealing with problems that are relevant to the child or teenager. However, the protagonist’s age is not always a reliable indicator of the book’s suitability for a particular audience. There are plenty of books that feature young characters but are too mature for children of that age to read. “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card and “IT” by Stephen King are two examples.

Thematically speaking, I believe “The Gloaming” is more suitable for an older crowd. However, I will leave the marketing decisions to my future agent/publisher. They’re the experts, after all!

The Goal for July

Over the coming month, I plan to finish “The Gloaming” and send it off to beta readers. With 8 chapters to go, the plot is still a tangled mess, but it’s not as much of a tangled mess as it was when I first started. I have every confidence that I can finish the final chapters within the next 2 weeks, thus giving myself 2 weeks to make final edits on the overall manuscript.

That’s all the news I’ve got for now, so I’m going to get back to work. I hope you all have a wonderful month!

Sincerely,

J. R. Schuyler

May 2018 Update

It’s been another busy month for me. I finished rewriting Part 2 of “The Gloaming” on the 17th—two weeks ahead of schedule. Since then, I’ve been trying to sort out the chaos of Part 3. Do you remember when you were a kid and your parents told you to clean your room, so you just shoved everything into the closet? Part 3 is like that closet. There are so many loose plot threads from previous parts that need to be tied up and, quite frankly, it’s a bit intimidating. That said, I have a plan to make it work. I just have to put it into action and hope I didn’t miss anything.

Other Projects

I’ve also been working on “The Astral Entity” lately, which is a novel about psychic spies. It’s been through 11 rewrites so far, and it’s finally turning into something I wouldn’t be embarrassed to release. It’s around 40% complete at the moment.

As for my adventures in flash fiction… I’ve written a few more pieces since my last blog post but none that are ready to be shared yet. I haven’t heard any news on the status of my competition entries either. The long lists were set to be released in late May, but it seems there’s been a delay. Given the high volume of entries, that’s entirely understandable.

Kindle Unlimited

I recently subscribed to Kindle Unlimited, and I have to say I’ve been enjoying it so far. Although KU might not help authors as much as buying their books directly, it allows me to support more authors than I would be able to otherwise. I’ve read 7 books so far this month, and I’m hoping to finish another 8 before my subscription runs out. Starting from around the 20th of June, I will be posting reviews for the books I read.

There’s a lot more I could talk about, but for now, I ought to get back to writing. See you next month!

Sincerely,

J. R. Schuyler

My First Month Writing Full Time

Looking back, it’s hard to fathom how an entire month has passed. It seems like only yesterday I was sitting down at my desk, desperately trying to re-immerse myself in the massive fictional world I’d created. Despite a slow start in Week One, I’ve settled into a rhythm and now I’m churning out some chapters I can be proud of.

Because I want to make the most of this opportunity to write unhindered by other responsibilities, I’ve been working on my book for 60-80 hours per week. That may sound like a lot, but it doesn’t feel like a lot. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about this book that energises me.

The Book

My current WIP, “The Gloaming”, is a contemporary fantasy novel about a boy who befriends some extra-dimensional humanoids. Together, they confront monsters, racism (species-ism?), evil scientists, and a tyrannical king who will stop at nothing to stay in power.

The book is split into three parts. Part 1 is already complete. Part 2 has been my project this month. Unfortunately, it takes me ten times longer to rewrite chapters than it takes to draft them. Nevertheless, I’m approximately halfway through the edits for Part 2, so hopefully I can finish them before my next update at the end of May.

Other Writing

In addition to working on my book, I’ve recently taken up writing flash fiction (under 300 words) and micro-fiction (under 100 words). I’ve always considered myself a concise writer, but fitting an entire story into such a tiny space is a fun challenge. You really get a sense of what’s important to the story and what isn’t. You also learn to convey complex ideas in simple ways without detracting from them.

Social Media

I’ve never been a huge fan of using social media, but I recently started using Twitter as a way to connect with other writers and readers around the world. I actually made the account last year, but it was suspended within seconds of creation. For some reason, I thought it would be a long, drawn-out process to get it back, so I put it off for a long time. But when I appealed the suspension? It took less than a minute to regain access. Hooray for small victories! Feel free to follow me @jrschuyler1 if you want more behind-the-scenes access to my writing process.

That’s about all the news I have for now, so I’m going to head back to my WIP. I hope you all have a fantastic day.

Sincerely,

J. R. Schuyler

Welcome!

For the past year, I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a blog. Not a post-once-and-then-disappear-forever kind of blog (which I’ve done countless times in the past), but a serious blog that gets updated on a regular basis with quality content.

I can’t guarantee it will happen, but hey—you’re still here, aren’t you?

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is J. R. Schuyler, and I’m a writer who enjoys experimenting with different genres and styles. I’ve self-published two short books so far: “Sleepers” (a sci-fi murder mystery) and “When the Leaves Fall” (a historical short story based on real events). I have a lot of other projects in the works, including:

  • The Gloaming (contemporary fantasy/YA)
  • The Astral Entity (sci-fi/action)
  • The Rabbit in the Moon (sci-fi)
  • Catch for Us the Foxes (dystopian/YA)
  • Deceivers (sci-fi/mystery)
  • Oceans Between Us (mystery)
  • December’s Drive (YA)

The reason I’ve decided to take the plunge into blogging now is an exciting one. As of 30/03/18, I will be writing full-time for a few months. No study. No job. No distractions. Just me and the novels I’ve been dying to finish. I won’t have time to complete all of them, of course, but my goal is to have at least two polished manuscripts ready by December.

During this time, I want to share my journey with the most important person of all: you, the reader. In addition to monthly updates on my progress, I might occasionally post my thoughts about writing in general and things I’ve learned, as well as anything else that I think might be of interest to you.

Whether you’re here because you like my books or because you stumbled on this blog by accident, I’m very grateful to have you here with me. Your comments and feedback are always welcome.

Sincerely,

J. R. Schuyler