Lesson (sort-of) Learned

Well, seven years after I wrote a scene in which a young monk is whipped while trying to paint a thrush, I can finally say it: The Emperor’s Blades is out on the shelves. Oddly, the money-laden dump truck driven by attractive fans has not yet arrived in the driveway, but maybe that happens tomorrow.

I’m a slow learner, but even for slow learners seven years is enough time to pick up a few lessons. Here’s what I’ve got:

1. It is never a good idea to drink five cups of coffee before noon.

2. That scene you spent a week and a half on, the one you thought was going to be the psychological pivot for an entire act? Yeah, it’s crap. Cut it.

3. When you find a brilliant beta reader, marry her. It’s the only way to ensure she’ll see the project through to the end.

4. Back up your fucking hard drive. Back up your fucking hard drive, you idiot. Back up your fucking hard drive.

5. If you dress zombies up with a fancy new name, they are still just zombies. Cut ‘em.

6. One beer might help the creative process. One.    O. N. E.    1.

7. You think you write clean prose? Prose that will leave the copyeditor with little to do? Ha. Ha ha ha. Ha.

8. When you start cursing and poking at the screen, it’s time to get up and go for a run.

9. If you’re still worked up about whatever wasn’t working when the run is over, the run is not over. Go do the other loop.

10. Tweeting is not writing.

11. Facebooking is not writing.

12. Google+ing is not writing.

13. Blogging is sort of writing, but you’re not gonna get a book out of it.

14. That whole plot line with the Urghul girl as a point of view character? The one that’s a hundred thousand words long? Yeah. Cut it.

15. If you make eye contact with the dogs, they might stop chasing you. Or they might not.

16. Always listen to your agent. She is smarter than you. She is more experienced than you. Without your agent you would be like a baby deer wandering around inside the lion cage at the zoo. Except you are not cute like a baby deer.

17. Your friends, for reasons known only to them, actually believe you can pull this off.

18. Your baby is probably screaming because you’re not writing fast enough.

19. Remember when you didn’t know what an editor did? No? That’s because now that you’ve realized your editor does everything, the thought of putting out a book without him is inconceivable.

20. Stop typing and make a sandwich already. A healthy human can go thirty days without eating, but it doesn’t make for very good prose.

21. Just because you wrote eight thousand words in one day doesn’t mean you’re allowed to keep any of them.

22. Stop trying to come up with titles. Just stop. Stop.

23. The book has your name on it, but without your wife’s help at literally every step of the process, it would just be a pile of scribbled-on pages like Russell Crowe’s crazy papers in A Beautiful Mind.

24. Even if the book is a steaming turd, it doesn’t matter. You have wonderful friends and wonderful family, people who don’t really want to handle a steaming turd, but will do so if necessary and keep loving you at the same time.

25. That scene with the monk? The first one you wrote seven years ago? Yeah. It’s crap. Cut it.

27 thoughts on “Lesson (sort-of) Learned

  1. Pingback: Lesson (Sort of) Learned

  2. When this is over, it might be entertaining to read all those cut parts. Perhaps as stories told in a tavern 100 years in the future. Disjointed. Illogical. Incongruous half-truths; but entertaining.

  3. Actually thought I might get it early, since Amazon sent me an email before Christmas saying it had shipped. Unfortunately, the Algorithmic Overlords self-corrected and Christmas was not all it might have been. But my copy arrived today, and I’m looking forward to it.

  4. Enjoyed the audiobook, looking forward to the two next books. Simon Vance gave a great performance. Please try to get him to voice your future books if possible. This is one of the best sci-fi book so far this year. You will have some very steep competition this year, but as for know, you have my vote for new author debut sci-fi novel. Thank you for the last seven years of your personal life and struggles it took to get this book to press. It was worth it in my personal opinion. Thanks

  5. Hello Brian just finished the book I am A bookseller and have been for over thirty years and I read To much fantasy
    it is great to see A new male author as most of the good new writers are female, I really enjoyed the book and it grieves me that it will be at least A year to the next, The characters and story line are very strong For a first novel I thought it was very good one of the best first novels I have read. I really hope the next one does not take seven years.
    Roddy O’Halloran

  6. I am an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Rochester and an avid reader. For what it’s worth, in my opinion your debut ranks right up there with those of Sanderson, Weeks, and Brett, all of whose work I greatly admire. You are going to become very popular and very, very busy. I am looking forward to the next book. And resenting having to wait for it…though I suspect that means you’ve done your job! Lastly, your Blog kills me. True, that. All of it.

  7. Wonderful novel. I loved it. Very nice debut. You sir, just joined the list with Butcher, Rothfuss, Martin and others, of whom I wait oh so patiently for their next novels. Thank you for telling us all a story worth reading.

  8. Excellent book. Finished it 10 min ago, went online to find anything else you wrote and ended up here. Well developed characters, engaging dialogue and good pacing. Keep up the good work.

    Oh, is that a baby I hear crying…


  9. Today ordered hardback & audiobook, based on article at afantasyreader.blogspot.co.uk. Sounds too good to miss out on! Found your blog too obviously; plenty to chew on here! Thanks and good luck…

  10. Hello,

    I just finished the book today on my way to work. Without going into any details/spoilers I would just like to say that I think this was a very good book. Recommendations has already been sent out to friends. Thank you so much for all the time you have put into this, I am sure many more are grateful. Can’t wait for book 2.

    • Thanks, Mika! I’m thrilled that you enjoyed the book. I take it that you listed to the audio version if you were listening on the way to work? How did you like the narration?

      • I was indeed listening to the audio version, narrated by Simon Vance. I consume a lot of fantasy books and almost only in audio form. I belive I should start by saying that Simon Vance is a very good narrator and he didn’t let me (or you 🙂 ) down in Emperor’s blades.

        He makes most characters in the book come alive. The way he does Tans’ voice is fantastic, delivering the monks wisdoms in a way that feels realistic. The way you have written his dialogue with Kaden and how Simon narrates is truly excellent.
        I must also say that they way he does Balandin and Joerl is really good . He makes them and their cruelty come to life in a way that makes me hate them and that makes it very powerful.

        Please excuse any misspellings of names, as I listened to the book I have no way of knowing the correct spelling.

        Thank you for taking your time to comment on our (the fans) comments.

  11. Really enjoyed the book. Beautifully written. I have a question on the editing process. I am just about wrapped up with my first draft of an epic fantasy novel. Some parts I think are quite good, most parts are quite bad. I know the book will get better and tighter with subsequent drafts, but compared to most published books I read, my book is depressingly bad. I realize I’m reading the polished versions of these novels, so my question to you is how much better did your book get from the time it was contracted to the time it finally hit the shelves? How much did it change? Are your first drafts garbage compared to your published works? I’m just trying to gauge how depressed I should be about my own writing.

    • Hi Mike — Sorry it took a while to respond to this. It’s a great, but very tricky question. I have a couple different types of answers. First, the book you read is RADICALLY different from the first book I wrote. There are entirely new characters, characters who have changed genders, chapters and chapters and chapters that never existed. Moreover, even the little bits of material that are the same in content have been reworked and revised many times, with input from friends, family, my agent, and my editor. So, I’d say you should expect and hope that your book will improve, probably a lot, with reworking. Do you mind if I ask how long it took you to put together this first draft?

      The second part of my answer is a little more nuanced. I think (and I’d welcome others to disagree with me on this) that it’s easier to fix issues of character, plot, pacing, continuity, etc. than it is to tackle the fundamental quality of the prose itself. If the things that are disappointing you about your draft seem to fall into the former category, I have a few books on plot and structure that I’d recommend. If it’s the latter quality, however, I think there’s a longer path ahead of you. What parts, specifically, do you hope to improve?

  12. I just finished the book and thoroughly enjoyed it! I was so pleased to see that the second book is slated for release in January and we won’t have to wait for years to continue the story. Also, as a professional copyeditor, number 7 on this list made me laugh hysterically.

    • Thanks, Amanda! I’m thrilled to hear you’re enjoying the story, and really can’t wait to get the Providence of Fire out into the world. I was at a bookgroup discussion of the Emperor’s Blades last night, and I was struck by how many of the things those readers were really excited about don’t even take off, properly speaking, until book two. Very much looking forward to hearing what readers think of it.

      As for Riah (the Urghul girl who got cut from the book), don’t despair! I have no concrete plans for her yet, but I love the character and think it’s better than likely that I’ll go back to her, maybe when this trilogy is done, to write a stand-alone novel. All very speculative at this point, but I don’t think I can just abandon her…

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