Hollow Empire – Lessons Learned

Hollow Empire’s first Episode came out on a Friday night to a Kindle reader near you for a whole $0.99. For that you get to meet the characters, get immersed in the world, and get left on one heck of a cliffhanger for… another 2 days. Because that’s when Episode 2 comes out. And then a week later Episode 3 comes out. And so on for 6 straight weeks.

HollowEmpireEP1

Check it out on Amazon here!

Last month I talked about how the project began (in the various emails sent back and forth between Mr. Neill and myself). You can find that here.

The thing about this project was that while we had a bit of a road map, this was different than the way I normally write. Typically I’m working in solitude, late into the night, trying to hit my goals for the night. But even before that I have an outline of some sort set out. It might not have all the twists and turns laid out, but it gives me enough road signs that I know where I’m heading.

It’ll be months working on that 1st draft. A draft that no one else can see (not even Courtney). It is in this draft that I become unafraid to suck. Unafraid to write down everything that my brain might only be tangentially trying to tell me. It all goes in… because I know that when I sit down for Draft 2, I can easily cut the chaff from the wheat.

Or something.

Hollow Empire worked a little differently. Initially we set up goals of turning around the episodes every 3 weeks. At that point I’d send J my 3 chapters and he’d send me his 3 chapters and I’d spend a night or two on edits (and he’d do the same).

Let me say right now that J got the short end of that stick. Especially at the beginning. His chapters were pretty clean overall. A few grammar things, a misspelling or three, and maybe a tweak of some plot (mostly that was me asking questions like this: “Wow, this thing you introduced was cool, how does that work?”).

Editing

Mine were a little rougher. Mostly because, while I did give them a writer edit before sending them on, they were probably closer to 1st draft form than 2nd or 3rd draft form. I can only imagine what J thought when he read that first chapter.

Hopefully it wasn’t a “what have I gotten myself into” situation. ūüôā

I believe that by the 5th and 6th episodes I’d cleaned up some of the bigger mistakes, crutches, etc. that I was using (or he’d given up by then).

I’m fairly new at this, but I have to believe that even the JK Rowlings and Steven Kings still learn things with each project they write. Maybe they aren’t the HUGE things anymore, but I have to hope that there are still techniques to figure out… an envelope to push.

And I’m still at the point where everything is HUGE realizations. Writing Hollow Empire, getting that instant feedback, and then doing the edits immediately showed me a different perspective on how my work… worked.

I wasn’t expecting that when I agreed to the project.

The other big thing I learned was that 3 weeks isn’t as long as you think when you have a day job. You see, I was under the assumption that since my nightly goal is 1250 words and our portion of each episode was about 7000 words… well, you do the math. That should be only 6 days. Figure 2 more for any edits. Even if I only write 5 days a week, that’s only half the time.

time slipping away

Well to mis-quote Top Gun: My brain was writing checks that my body couldn’t cash.

I hit the first deadline, no problem. Heck, I had a whole spreadsheet set up with due dates and how long edits would take and so on. By Episode 2 I only barely hit the date, and I’m pretty sure by Episode 3 I was a little late. And so on.

That being said, I would set up the same schedule the next time (3 weeks). Some of the delays were from not knowing the characters quite yet. Some of it was trying to ¬†make sure that I hit the goal posts I’d set up in our initial story meeting. And some of it was vacations and work. At 3 weeks per episode we’d still be done in 4 months. Which leads me to the 3rd thing I learned.

The speed of the project made me a faster writer. More pure. I wrote my characters into corners in one episode and then had to figure out how in the world they were going to get out of that situation. And while that made for some longer nights than I would have liked, I’m hopeful that the end result of not agonizing over every last sentence captures a feeling with the readers.

What I’d like to know now is whether this experiment worked. How do the readers react to those moments and cliffhangers and everything else? Can we make it so they are hyped for a new episode to come out on Friday night?

I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller¬†The Dark That Follows,¬†the steampunk comic¬†The Gilded Age, and the novella¬†There’s Something About Mac¬†through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum РA Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

This post originally appeared on tesseraguild.com.

 

Hollow Empire – Those Initial Steps

On March 23, 2013 I received the following email from J Edward Neill:

“My final round scooped. Weak. But seriously, if you want to try your hand at the serial story blog thing, I’m all in.”

The first part of that line refers to Magic the Gathering, so not really important to our discussion right now. The second refers to a conversation I had with J about a podcast I’d been listening to “The Self-Publishing Podcast” and how two of those guys had been on a tear with serialized fiction (which if you are at all interested in independent writing, you should check out the podcast). The format basically was about 15,000 words per episode (which equals about 60 pages), six episodes make a season (apparently we are on an English schedule)… leaving you with 90,000 words for the book (360 pages). They released them on a weekly basis, cliffhangers at the end of episodes (just like some of your favorite tv shows).

breakfast_serial_forum_183

No, not this kind of serial!

And I thought it could be duplicated.

So a couple of days later I got that email. And I replied on March 25, 2013:

“Serial – I’d be down.”

There was tons more included. Talk about potential schedules, the idea that this book could help not only cross-pollinate our works, but also generate content for our virtual book shelves. The one thing I am sure of in this writing thing is that if I only have one book, then it is much harder for anyone to find me. But if I have another book, I’ve increased my odds. And by co-writing it, I only have to do 1/2 as much work to get to the full novel.

Right?

Anyway. At that point we had no idea what this was going to be besides the barest of formats. Genre? Who knows. I only knew that we probably wanted to avoid vampires and zombies since they seemed to be running rampant throughout fiction and tv and movies.

J mentioned “a superhero theme, but waaaay back in time… fighting against ancient evils in a fantasy dark ages setting.”

I took that and wrote the following:

“125 years ago the last of the Great Wars were fought and the beginning of King XXX began. And the Age of Peace spread throughout the lands that he had conquered. Much like Alexander in our own world, this King spread his kingdom to the far reaches of the known world, but unlike Alexander, he lived to a ripe old age. Long enough to ensure that his heir would be ready to rule after him, long enough to make sure that the new lands remained within the kingdom. Trade increase, prosperity increased, etc.

10442Jollain_The_Plague_of_Frogs

20 years ago marked the beginning of the Outbreak in YYY. hey stacked the dead along the walls until they reached the top, and then they began a new corpse wall. The spread like wildfire throughout the world; the downside to having increased contact with the far reaches meant that no one could outrun it. The population of the world decreased over the next 10 years by 50%. Small villages now are ghost towns, empty of all life, as those who survived journeyed to the cities for protection, cure, help.

Now we deal with a medieval world which has begun to pull itself out of the apocalypse. They are trying to figure out where they stand. But there are peasant revolts, coups, kingdoms which quarantined themselves and have not been heard from in the last dozen years.

Plague_doctors'_beak_shaped_mask

<Insert Project Name> – Dark Fantasy – Not saving the world, not saving the day… just saving yourself.”

That’s all it took and we were off to the races. We began to flesh out the pieces of the world and the people who survived the end of the world. We came up with our four Points of View, each choosing to write two of them. We’d be each other’s first editor. And when it was done we’d have something greater than the one could possibly do.

I must admit, I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out. I’ve collaborated plenty on the comic book side of things. Heck, the whole format is about that very thing. Writers and artists working together to achieve something they could not have done alone. But this was something else.

And it worked (at least I think it did, you’ll have to read it and be the judge). I think we’ve not only managed to flesh out a world, but we’ve done it by using the characters as our vehicles to get there. They determine so much of what the world is going to look like.

The best part, though, was getting that new chapter from J. There would always be something new one of us would include in a chapter that the other one would want to add to their own story. So many emails and conversations seemed to begin with “X thing is cool… how exactly does it work so that I can use it.” Those surprises made it fresh in a way that working by yourself sometimes can’t be.

I’m excited to release this new creation into the world. I can’t wait to have people give it a read and let us know what they think.

And by the way, Mr. Neill also has given a little bit of teaser for Hollow Empire here.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller¬†The Dark That Follows,¬†the steampunk comic¬†The Gilded Age, and the novella¬†There’s Something About Mac¬†through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum РA Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

This post originally appeared on tesseraguild.com.

Just Finish It

I’ve gone to plenty of writing panels over the years hoping to discover, like Ponce de Leon looking for the Fountain of Youth, the secret formula to their success. How the heck did they manage to get up there with their book, comic, etc? Most of the time I do learn something, some nugget of truth that makes the trip worthwhile (maybe a technique or some obstacle they managed to overcome). But there really is one thing that separates them from those of us in the room:

You want to be a writer?  Then write, sure, but FINISH the task.

Too much I get caught up in the idea of writing. Make sure that I get my WORDS in for the day, or make sure that the latest chapter gets revised.

w-b-park-finish-it-why-would-i-want-to-finish-it-new-yorker-cartoon

¬†But at some point you have got to get to “Pencil’s Down”.¬†This is something I have only just now begun to understand, and I am not even close to where I want to be.¬† I have only scratched the surface of this for myself and constantly have to fight to get there.

There is a difference between “Wanting” to be a writer (nevermind the great) and “Being” a writer.

It¬†is the “Doing”.

In everyday life there are people who WANT to do, be, have something.  How many of them take the time to sit down (or stand up as the case may be) and actually do it?  How many distractions can one person have before their WANT simply becomes their DREAM and then later their REGRET.

Dreams Road Sign

 

This is the mantra I have to keep telling myself over and over. When I get tired or don’t want to sit down at the computer, I repeat it.

It seems so simple. It seems like one of those things that you read and say “Of course. What else would you think you needed to do?”

Even knowing it isn’t enough. It’s never that easy. How many ideas do I currently have sitting on my computer or flash drive that are waiting for me to¬†finish¬†them?¬† Dozens.¬† How many are finished?¬† Not nearly enough (not by a long shot). So why can’t I get there every time? What’s the hold up?

Sometimes it is the FEAR. The FEAR that what I’m writing is not going to be liked. I’m just as worried that by finishing said story or script or novel or whatever that people will read the FINISHED product and not like¬†it¬†and then where did my work get me?¬† What a waste, right?

ed-dans-ed-wood-de-tim-burton-10967401cmebh_1713

Really? Worst film you ever saw. Well, my next one will be better.

I have to convince myself that it isn’t a waste. That with each word that I write (and rewrite and edit and then even the ones I cut) means I am one inch closer to where I need to be. I get to that million words and beyond.

So that unfinished thing is doing you so much good then?¬† Sure, you can’t get hurt if you don’t¬†finish¬†it, but I have to say, putting that final word down on the page and knowing that you have actually completed something.¬† That’s got to be worth something.

Right?

When somebody posts their finished piece of art or script or whatever, they are 1 million times ahead of¬†me with my dozens of unfinished products.¬†¬†It¬†doesn’t matter how much better of a writer I THINK I am because they have already lapped me 4 or 5 times.

I know plenty of people (I am one of those people¬†some times) that start a project and get bored and then jump to another project, get bored, wash, rinse, repeat.¬† At the end of a year they have enough stuff that you’d think they’d have a Finished Product, but instead¬†it¬†is spread out over ten different things. Ten different UNFINISHED things. Ugh.

It’s an odd thing that really in the last year I feel like I’ve started to have real successes on the writing side of things, but even those are still not quite finished. Sure, issue #1 of The Gilded Age is complete, but I think I allowed myself about 5 minutes to enjoy that it existed in a tangible format before my brain started spinning on when the next issue would be finished. Same with Tiger Style #1.

The greatest thing about comic books is that it is a collaborative process. You need a writer and an artist and maybe an inker and a colorist and a letterer and an editor before the whole thing is ready and done.

The worst thing about comic books is that it is a collaborative process. And that you need to have those other people because when any one point slips, the whole process comes to a complete halt. I don’t get the artist the next issue’s script, well I guess that is going to delay the book. The inker doesn’t get the pencils by the deadline… now we have another delay. And so on.

It can be maddening. It’s one of the reasons I started writing a novel in the first place. Finally, something that is totally on me and only me to get done.

Only. On. Me.

Gulp.

Yeah, so now who do I get to blame when my next chapter isn’t written yet? Who do I get to blame when that second draft is still waiting to get done?

Oh, that would be me.

Even now as I seemingly crawl through the last bit of editing on my first novel, The Dark That Follows, it doesn’t really exist until it is done. Before that it is just another unfinished project hoping for me to put the time in and get it out the door. The serial I’m working on with J Edward Neill, Hollow Empire,¬†has many chapters completed in various forms (some in needed of editing, some ready for a read through, etc.), but until Episode 6 is complete and edited and out the door it just is another thing “I’m working on”. The next issue of The Gilded Age or Tiger Style or whatever else is coming down the pipeline.

So I repeat my mantra and put my butt in the seat and start typing.

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller¬†The Dark That Follows,¬†the steampunk comic¬†The Gilded Age, and the novella¬†There’s Something About Mac¬†through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the recently released anthology Beyond the Gate, which is free on most platforms!

This post originally appeared on tesseraguild.com.

Hollow Empire Episode 1 is FREE!

I am happy to report that Episode 1 of the 1st Season of Hollow Empire is now available for FREE on Amazon and on Smashwords. Click the icon below!

buy4._V192207739_

Smashwords Buy Button2

 

HollowEmpireEP1

 

Here’s the blurb:

“Once, the empire of Vhur was the world’s most powerful. But that was before the Lichy plague. Now, twenty years and millions of dead later, only a few cities remain. The survivors walk a fine line between staying alive and crumbling into the grave.

Come the Night of Knives, even these last few might perish.”

But it is more than a post-apocalyptic fantasy with hints of westerns and a dash of superheroes mixed in (it works, trust me). It is the story of four people, Vadim, Nadya, Cassidy, and Murgul the Maggot. It is their stories of survival. And for some, maybe even redemption.

And if you like what you’ve read, be sure to check out the complete Season 1:

buy4._V192207739_

Hollow Empire – Episode 5 Available Now!

Episode 5 of the 1st Season of Hollow Empire is now available on Amazon. For only $0.99.

buy4._V192207739_

 

 

Here’s the blurb:HollowEmpireEP5

In this, the penultimate episode of Season 1, more and more things begin to spiral out of control for our heroes. Unsure of where to turn and who to trust. Vadim, Murgul, Nadya, Cassidy, and Isidora are put to the test as the old regime gives way to the new one.

***

We’ll be releasing 1 Episode (about 50+ pages) every week for the next 6 weeks before collecting it all in a complete book (Season 1 – Night of Knives).

So if you have been wanting to dip your toe into any of my writings, maybe this one is the one for you.

Hollow Empire – Season 1 Complete! Available Now!

For all of you who can’t wait another 2 weeks and for those of you who for some reason Hollow Empire Front Cover
haven’t picked up the first 4 Episodes, J Edward Neill and I have decided to release the full version of Hollow Empire a week and a half early. They say all good things come to those who wait, but we can’t wait to hear what you think of the season.

For those of you who haven’t yet checked it out, might as well dive into the deep end!

It is available on Amazon right now! For only $4.99.

buy4._V192207739_

Hollow Empire – Episode 4 Available Now!

Episode 4 of the 1st Season of Hollow Empire is now available on Amazon and Smashwords. Click the icon below! For only $0.99.

buy4._V192207739_

Smashwords Buy Button2

 

HollowEmpireEP4

Here’s the blurb:

HALFWAY THROUGH SEASON ONE OF HOLLOW EMPIRE…

…LIFE LOOKS DIRE FOR THE FOUR SURVIVORS OF THE LICHY PLAGUE.

Murgul the Maggot gets a visit…and new orders…from the man who nearly executed him.

Cassidy is terrified of Isidora’s latest vision.

Nadya and Marik hide when the Inquisitor comes to Tiev.

And the Crone continues to torment Vadim.

***

We’ll be releasing 1 Episode (about 50+ pages) every week for the next 6 weeks before collecting it all in a complete book (Season 1 – Night of Knives).

So if you have been wanting to dip your toe into any of my writings, maybe this one is the one for you.

Hollow Empire – Episode 3 Available Now!

Episode 3 of the 1st Season of Hollow Empire is now available on Amazon and Smashwords. Click on the icon below! For only $0.99.

buy4._V192207739_ Smashwords Buy Button2

 

Here’s the blurb:HollowEmpireEP3

For Vadim, Jericho, and the Long Riders’ Commander, their lives have become a bit more confined….

Nadya¬†suffers in the darkness, as the Gallows Boys make plans for her…

Cassidy and Isidora find themselves trapped in a nightmare of a village with their enemy nipping at their heels…

And Murgle the Maggot makes a discovery that could change everything he’s ever known…

We’ll be releasing 1 Episode (about 50+ pages) every week for the next 6 weeks before collecting it all in a complete book (Season 1 – Night of Knives).

So if you have been wanting to dip your toe into any of my writings, maybe this one is the one for you.

Hollow Empire – Episode 2 Available Now!

Episode 2 of the 1st Season of Hollow Empire is now available on Amazon. Right here! For only $0.99!

buy4._V192207739_

Smashwords Buy Button2

 

 

Here’s the blurb:HollowEmpireEP2-333x500

After saving Jericho from public execution, Vadim and his fellow riders set off on the Long Ride…

Nadya of the Bashir meets an unsavory vagabond and sees her first Iritul face-to-face…

Cassidy and Isidora ride for their lives…

An entire city screams for Murgul the Maggot to die…

We’ll be releasing 1 Episode (about 50+ pages) every week for the next 6 weeks before collecting it all in a complete book (Season 1 – Night of Knives).

So if you have been wanting to dip your toe into any of my writings, maybe this one is the one for you.

Hollow Empire – Episode 1 Available Now!

HollowEmpireEP1After many months of sweat and late nights and swapping chapters with my co-writer, J Edward Neill, I am happy to report that Episode 1 of the 1st Season of Hollow Empire is now available on Amazon and on Smashwords. Click the icon below! For only $0.99!

buy4._V192207739_

Smashwords Buy Button2

 

 

Here’s the blurb:

“Once, the empire of Vhur was the world’s most powerful. But that was before the Lichy plague. Now, twenty years and millions of dead later, only a few cities remain. The survivors walk a fine line between staying alive and crumbling into the grave.

Come the Night of Knives, even these last few might perish.”

But it is more than a post-apocalyptic fantasy with hints of westerns and a dash of superheroes mixed in (it works, trust me). It is the story of four people, Vadim, Nadya, Cassidy, and Murgul the Maggot. It is their stories of survival. And for some, maybe even redemption.

We’ll be releasing 1 Episode (about 50+ pages) every week for the next 6 weeks before collecting it all in a complete book (Season 1 – Night of Knives).

So if you have been wanting to dip your toe into any of my writings, maybe this one is the one for you.