Likely A Too-Long Post About My Writing Style

I was catching up on some episodes of the Three Guys with Beards podcast (hosted by Jonathan Maberry, Christopher Golden, and James A. Moore – all great storytellers that you should be checking out) when they got onto the topic of writing styles. Or maybe how they approach their writing is a more apt description. Which then got me to think about the manners and methods of how I write.

Look, every writer has their own style. There’s no right way, and there’s no wrong way. Anyone who tells you different is talking out of their ass. If you’re a writer, find a method that works for you, but don’t be afraid to try new things. If that new thing doesn’t work for you, pitch it out the window and do something else. Simple, right?

In the episode, the bearded ones mentioned a couple different styles they’ve employed, from running straight through beginning to end, writing the climax first, or playing hopscotch through the manuscripts and going back and forth.

For me, I’m a straight-up beginning to end kind of writer. I wouldn’t say I outline, but I have the barest of bones of a structure in my mind, usually supported by at least three story beats that get fleshed out as the story progresses. Once an idea locks in, I typically know the three big beats – beginning, middle, and end – at least in general terms of action. Not always, but usually. This breaks down to having an inciting event, a significant action set piece at the half-way mark, and a (hopefully!) strong resolution. These constitute certain narrative tent-poles that I work toward in a linear fashion, letting the beats in between build naturally from the story as I go. When I’m first starting out, I rarely have any kind of in-depth plan starting in Chapter One as to what will happen in Chapter Thirty, but I do have a general idea of where the plot is leading. I mostly just let the characters and story figure out how to get from Point A to Point B to Point C.

The book I’m working on now, a sci-fi thriller set in a post-climate change Earth, has been working slightly different, but still following a similar road map. I knew the inciting event, which occurs (in this first draft) around chapter three. Last night, I figured out what chapter four needs to be and will be writing that today. This is all building toward a mid-story event that puts everything into upheaval and will change the dynamics of the story a bit as the plot expands around a new threat that I have been slowly teasing in an off-handed way. Now what happens from chapter four to Point B, I don’t really know yet, but am confident I’ll discover it along the way. I have a few rough ideas, but the story will let me know what it wants to do, and I trust in that.

I recently completed a short story called Let Go, which is slowly getting prepped for release (it’s off to my editor now, and a cover designer is on tap, so stay tuned!), and which is a zombie horror title. My horror works differ only a little bit from my sci-fi stuff in terms of work flow, and tend to be much shorter. Even though they tend toward short story-to-novella end of the spectrum, I’m still teasing through that three-act structure of beginning, middle, and end, only at an accelerated (for lack of a better term) rate. However, I tend to go back and feed in a bit more information throughout the story in future drafts after it’s all been written.

This is true of Let Go, and was perhaps at its most serious extent with another recently finished short horror story that I wrote for an upcoming anthology (more on that soon!). This short story is tentatively titled Black Site and is a sci-fi horror, and required extensive amounts of revision both as I went along and through subsequent drafts. After I had the first draft written, I had a much better understanding of what needed to change, altered, deleted, and added. Especially what needed to be added. For only being around 10,000 words, I think it may be the most heavily re-worked 10,000 words I’ve written yet and it hasn’t even been put in front of the editor yet.

This brings me to another point in terms of figuring out a writing style or methodology, and why nobody can tell you what works for certain – nobody else knows your freaking story like you do. And so nobody can tell you how to write it. Sometimes you just have to learn how to write it as you go along, or after you’ve beaten yourself through that first draft. With Black Site, I had an idea of how that story would go and what I needed to do with it. When I hit THE END, I found myself deeply unsatisfied and knew that certain elements were missing. That’s what a second draft is for! But, I had to get through the finale in order to figure out how to work through the earlier segments to take corrective measures and get it back on track. Could I have avoided this by writing the ending first? Well, maybe – but only if I had known for sure what that ending was going to be. While I knew what the ultimate fate of the characters would be in terms of the story’s resolution, I didn’t quite know the circumstances surrounding the climax until the characters figured it out and told me how it was gonna be.

I like to let the story speak to me. I’m comfortable with that, and often find myself enjoying the surprises the story hurtles at me. Others need to have a rigid outline with every detail mapped out. That’s just not my bag. What about you, fellow writers?

Likely A Too-Long Post About My Writing Style

Works In Progress

chronicles
I’m not in any of these. But I’ll be in an upcoming Chronicle soon!

This year has been nicely productive, and in the back-half of the year we should be seeing a healthy bit of output as the finishing touches are put on several anthologies that I’ll be appearing in. Of course, this could all go to hell in a handbag, but as long as the marvelous editors and curators I’ve been working with are happy to publish the stories I’ve written for them I should be making a sizable splash in various arenas soon.

Earlier this year, I released Emergence, a follow-up to last year’s debut title, Convergence. I was also fortunate enough to be a part of the No Way Home anthology as fellow indie sci-fi writer Lucas Bale put on his curator hat to assemble some mighty fine voices in the speculative arena.

Not quite content to rest on the success of our first anthology, we’re all teaming up again to release our next wave of speculative fiction short stories with Crime & Punishment near the tail-end of summer, so keep an eye out for news on that one as we get a bit closer.

I recently had a small chat with Samuel Peralta, who has simply been killing it with the production of a number of anthologies in The Future Chronicles line-up (see the image above!), and who will soon be expanding his efforts with a second series of anthologies revolving around alternate history, alternate universes, alternate realities, etc. Naturally, this line-up will be branded under the Alt.Chronicles label, with Alt.History 101 launching soon.

I’ll be making my debut in a Peralta production later this year, under The Future Chronicles banner with The Cyborg Chronicles. This is, literally, a dream come true for me. There’s a few benchmarks I’m hoping to hit in my writing career, and getting to appear in a Chronicles anthology was damn near the top of that list, so this is a huge, huge deal for me. Not only are these collections superb, but I’ll also get to join the ranks of a long line of Chronicles luminaries like Ken Liu, Hugh Howey, Jennifer Foehner Wells, Peter Cawdron, Therin Knite, Susan Kaye Quinn, and so very many more. This is just some damn fine company to be in!

Finally, my first-ever fantasy (!) story will be appearing in Undaunted, from LARRIKINbooks, later this year. There will be some news on this front soon, though, and I don’t think it’s completely verboten for me to mention that this collection will actually be in the realm of fantasy-noir. Talk about an intriguing cross-genre mash-up! Plus, Delilah S. Dawson, author of Hit and Servants of the Storm, to name but a few of her novels, is doing the foreword on this one, and there’s a great stable of indie talent coming together here, as well. Check out the announcement at this LARRIKINbooks blog post and stay tuned here for more news in the coming months.

  • Crime and Punishment Anthology
    • THE MARQUE, approx. 12,000 words. Post-apocalyptic sci-fi western, a sort of “aliens vs. cowboys” thing.
    • submitted
    • Release – Aug. 31, 2015
  • Undaunted
    • DEBTS OF BLOOD AND FLESH, approx. 6,700 words. Fantasy-noir.
    • submitted
    • Release – TBA/October 2015
  • The Cyborg Chronicles
    • PRESERVATION. Manuscript of 4-10K words due July 17. Can’t say much about this one yet, but it will be a stand-alone short story with some very loose ties to my two DRMR novels.
    • In Progress!
    • Release – TBA/September 2015
Works In Progress

2014 Writing In Review

2014 was a fairly productive period for my first year as an author. In late February, I released Convergence, and it’s since been featured as a Kobo Next Read Selection in their Science Fiction & Fantasy category, and was just recently a Book of the Week over at SciFi365.net. I’m pretty proud of this work, and reviewers have been responding favorably. I’ve heard from several readers who have greatly enjoyed it, and that alone has made this indie venture worthwhile. The title itself has raked up 10 reviews at Amazon, with a 4.8 out of 5 star average. On Goodreads, it’s accumulated an average of 4.42 out of 5 stars. It’s also made the Top 100 in Amazon’s Cyberpunk category multiple times since its release in both the US and the UK, which was very, very exciting to see.

My productivity hit its peak over the spring and summer, when I finished the first draft of Emergence and then dove into a short horror story, Consumption. Between those two works, I broke more than 110K in word-count over roughly three months.

Consumption released in October, and is currently standing at a 4.4 out of 5 star average among nine reviewers at Amazon, 4.15 on Goodreads. Again, I’ve been really happy with the reader reactions to this one. I was a bit nervous releasing it, as it’s so very different from Convergence, and is a bit off the wall. Horror is a genre I love, and I plan on dabbling in that end of the writing pool again in the (near?) future. I’ve got a few ideas I’m toying around with, but for the time being I’m heavily involved in my next novel.

And that next novel is, as I mentioned above, Emergence. This sequel to Convergence has been undergoing some serious editing and rewriting throughout the back-half of 2014. I recently received some beta reader feedback, which I think has helped tremendously, and it was great to get yet another set of eyeballs on this work. My content developer had terrific notes and suggestions, as well, and between those two readers I really do think Emergence is going to be one heck of a strong book. I’m hoping a few more betas will chime in soon. The next step is line edits, and I know my editor is going to have some more mighty fine suggestions, and that, in some ways, the work is only really just getting started.

Once those line edits are done, it’ll be onto the proofreading stage, and then art design and formatting. I’m eying a late first quarter or early second quarter release for 2015.

That’s not all, though! With Consumption out, and Emergence close to wrapping up, I was invited to take part in an anthology. There’s been a few kinks to work out on the scheduling for that one, but I have a 10,000 word short story, Revolver, that will be in the mix. Current plans are to have that one out for the spring, and I got an early look at the cover art and some of the story ideas from my fellow contributors. This should be a really great anthology, and I’m looking forward to sharing more details as we get closer to release.

I’m also in the very early stages of sorting out ideas for book three in the DRMR series, which will follow-up on some of the plot developments that occur in Emergence. I’m still a little bit away from hammering out all of the story details, but have settled on some interesting ideas that help expand on some of the conflicts seen in Convergence. I’m about five thousand words in and things are just starting to gel, so lots and lots of work ahead of me on this one.

On the blog side of things, I published 258 posts. These drew in more than 11 thousand views, across close to eight thousand visitors. Not a bad first year for this site (note: posts prior to 2014 were imported from a previous blog). I’m going to hedge my bets and say, conservatively, that between this blog and all the story writing, I probably produced close to 300 thousand words this year.

So, 2014 was busy, and I’m expecting 2015 to be equally productive. Keep an eye out for more news, more reviews, and new releases in the coming New Year.

Now, back to writing…

2014 Writing In Review

Writer Emergency Pack

Last month, I was proud to back the Writer Emergency Kickstarter. Well, John August really delivered on this one, a full four months early, in fact!

On Monday night, I got home from work to find this beautiful card pack of survival tips and suggestions waiting for me in the mailbox. Not only are they useful, but there are some damn great illustrations on these suckers. Exclusive to Kickstarter supporters is the Dark Mode pack, a one-time use only code, and you can be sure I ordered them pronto. I cannot wait to see how they turn out!

Here’s a couple quick photos of the unboxing:

Be sure to sign up for news on the official release at Writer Emergency and get your hands on a pack or two as soon as possible. It’s well worth the expense, and a nifty little deck of cards to boot.

Writer Emergency Pack

The Writer Emergency Pack just received full funding (and well beyond!) on Kickstarter, which is excellent news because I have absolutely no idea how to wrap up my current WIP!

Congrats to John August on this wonderful project. These helpful cards got the backing of 5,714 awesome people (me among them, of course) and raised $158,109, which is well above the initial $9,000 goal.

Status

Dinner Is Served: Consumption Release Day

CONSUMPTION COMPLETE

My new short story, CONSUMPTION, is out today! It retails for only 99 cents and you can find it at the following etailers (Nook link coming soon!):

| Amazon | Kobo | Nook |

| iBookstore | Google Play |

| Smashwords |

I’ve been lucky enough to get some advanced review coverage on this one, and here’s what the readers are saying:

Your stomach will turn, your throat will restrict, and jaw will clench tighter than a bull’s arsehole in fly season.

S. Elliot Brandis, author of Irradiated and Once Upon A Time At The End Of The World

Consumption is wonderfully paced and a real treat for horror fans. … I read it with the lights off and my Kindle screen turned up, and it was a totally immersive and satisfying experience.

Franklin Kendrick, author of The Entity series.

Hicks takes the reader to some twisted, nightmarish places and if you’re a horror fan with a strong constitution, add Consumption to your reading list – you won’t regret it.

– Teri Polen, Books & Such

wonderfully macabre! Cleverly thought out, I was both disgusted and excited by this tale. This a MUST read for horror fans.

Great Book Escapes

Consumption means a lot to me, and it’s a bit of an ode to the sort of horror I love. It’s a gory, fatalistic creature feature, full of atmosphere and creepiness. I had a tremendous amount of fun writing it, and I hope that joy comes through in the story. I’ve already written about how this story came about, and it’s a huge departure from my debut work, Convergence.

I talked about all this with S. Elliot Brandis over the weekend, and he’ll be posting his interview with me over at his site. Keep an eye out for it soon. I think it’ll be a pretty good read, if I do say so myself.

Then, head over to your favorite eBook hustler and plunk down a mere 99 cents for a good old-fashioned Halloween treat.

Dinner Is Served: Consumption Release Day