Author Archives: Jeff Ambrose

Tabard Cain #2 Is Finished!

Seer and Madman 2I’m happy to say I finished the second Tabard Cain novel, THE SEER AND THE MADMAN, today. I think it’s a fairly good movement within the greater story, if not for anything other than the fact that Tabard gets some friends to pal around with.

What’s next?

First, there are a couple of fixes I need to do either tonight or tomorrow. A new opening to Chapter 1, and a layering in of some material in a later chapter. But nothing too big or difficult.

Then, a break. I’m not the kind of writer who likes to leave my stories sitting around for several weeks. It makes me itchy knowing I have an unfinished project I need to get back to. So after I put in those changes tomorrow, I’ll take a few days off.

Finally, the edit. With the previous novel, THE KINGLESS WARRIOR, I decided to try a three-stage editing process. 1) A computer read-through during which I focus on the words. 2) A paper read-through in which I focus on content. 3) A final proofread.

That worked well enough. There were some kinks along the way, but that’s to be expected, since it was my first time editing a novel (or story) in such a manner. This time around, my goal is to be more efficient.

So, the first pass isn’t really about words. Rather it’s about fixing clunky sentences. For the most part, clunky sentences are the result of excessive words. So instead of reading the novel, this time I’m going to use Ken Rand’s 10% Solution to help me focus on those words that typically generate bad sentences. Words like was and of, and words ending with -ing and -ion. This doesn’t mean all those words are bad. But those words might indicate lazy writing. The goal isn’t to necessarily cut 10% of the draft, nor is it to fix sentences that work. Rather, the goal is to quickly identify those areas where improvement is needed. Gotta love the search/find feature!

For my second pass, I’m going to skip the paper read-through and instead just read it on the Kindle. The problem with a paper read-through is that I can spend a whole lot of time scribbling on the page, and then when I go back to put in those changes, I’m not really sure what my scribbles mean — or, worse still, I find those changes aren’t necessary. Remember, the goal of an edit is to fix the story, not change it for change sake. So this time, it’ll be me and my Kindle. I’ll highlight mistakes and make notes in a spiral notebook. I’m hoping this method keeps me from nitpicking, as well as force me to be a little more thoughtful with my notes.

For the proofread, my MacBook will read aloud the story to me. It worked great last time, and I’m confident it’ll work great this time. Yes, it’s tedious, and yes, and you can’t go on for long without taking a break. But you do catch tons of mistakes.

After that, it’ll be off to a reader to catch anything I missed.

Sometimes You Have To Start Over

Seer and Madman 2Last week, I took a day to reread my work in progress, THE SEER AND THE MADMAN, in order to find the story’s ending. I read, I jotted down notes, I forgot about it — and then one night later, as I was trying to fall asleep, the ending came to me. I jumped out of bed and scribbled down the basic idea.

On Monday morning, as I worked out the idea, I realized I had another problem. I had taken too many missteps in the book. The story was there, but the telling was jerky. As I scrolled through the novel, I began to see that there was no real way for me to smooth out the jerkiness without starting completely over. Layering in and taking out small things is easy. But when entire chunks of scenes need to be replaced with new material, I find it best to start the scene from word one.

In the case of THE SEER AND THE MADMAN, I thought it best if I start completely over. I felt the ending had far-reaching consequences, and that if I tried to layer in these changes, I would drive myself made. So using Scrivener’s split-screen ability, I put the old version on the left side of my screen and started writing the new version on the right side of the screen. Over the last five days, I’ve been able to write … or rewrite … or rekey — whatever you want to call it — about 30,000 words. Which is about half the novel. Some scenes needed no major changes, but I rekeyed them anyway in order to maintain a consistency of thought throughout the novel.

My hope is to have this sucker finished by next Friday, October 3 — but that might be pushing it. While I know the ending, it’s not written. So even if I finish the week after, I’ll be happy. My over-all goal is to have it out by the end of October, if not sooner.

Finding The Ending

I’ve often said — and I’ll probably say this many more times — that the hardest thing about writing is figuring out how you do it. The process other writers use to get from an idea to a finish novel can, at best, help you see possibilities of working, but no writer can take another writer’s process and simply use it.

For me, I’ve slowly come to see I’m very much a cycle writer. What this means, in general, is that I cycle through the story, adding and cutting and pushing the story forward with each pass. I’m not much of a “mini-cycler” the way, say, Dean Wesley Smith is. If you follow his on-going blog, you know that he continually makes small cycles, going back a couple hundred words, doing larger cycles rarely. I’m more of a “macro-cycler” the way, say, Harlan Coben is. About every 50 pages, maybe more, maybe less — it depends — I start at the beginning and read the story all the way through. Sometimes I do this because I really don’t know where I’m going, and other times I do this because I want to add and/or cut depending on the story is progressing. But mostly, I want to make sure there’s continuity.

Today, when I sat down to write, I realized I don’t have the faintest idea as to how to end this novel, THE SEER AND THE MADMAN. I’m right there on the cusp. Everything is lined up — except, I don’t know how it’s going to play out … and I don’t know even what direction to face. If I had one or the other, I think I could write. If I knew the ending, I would know how to get there. And if I knew which direction to face — even if I didn’t know the ending — I could at least put words on paper and see where it would lead. But I’m really lost at the moment.

Well, maybe not that lost.

One thing that often surprises me about writing — and perhaps it’s writing’s biggest joy — is when you surprise yourself. That is to say, when you don’t plan on something, but it’s there nevertheless. A “Muse Bomb,” as Holly Lisle would call it. When you find one and are able to use it, it’s a real thrill.

So while I don’t know how this sucker is going to end, I’m confident that my ending is already in the story — somewhere. A freshly printed manuscript sits next to me, to my left, and as soon as I get done here, I’m sitting down with it, a pencil, and a fresh cup of coffee, and I’m going to start reading.

All with a view to finding the story’s ending.

Next Tabard Cain Novel

I’ve been busy working on the next Tabard Cain novel. Its working title is THE SEER AND THE MADMAN, and while that’s not set in stone, I suspect that will be the final title. It fits the story in general, Tabard’s story in particular, and I’ve yet to come up with a better title. At this late in the game — I’m about 80% finished — I don’t foresee a new title emerging on the scene.

This book is proving to be very different from THE KINGLESS WARRIOR. That’s good. Who wants to read the same book, only retold? I don’t. And I don’t really want to write the same book. Once is enough. The struggle is to keep it interesting. I find I do that best when I let the story evolve as I write it. I start with some basic ideas, and have a general outline in my head. By general, I mean I can tell you in a very broad way how I think the story will pan out. But the details? No, I haven’t a clue. Letting these details develop as the story unfolds keeps things exciting. Just today, for example, I had a big insight into how the ending will play out, which knocked me for a loop. That’s the great fun of writing — when the story takes a life of its own. Its the only sure-fire way a writer can know that his story is wroth telling, I think.

After THE SEER AND THE MADMAN?

I have two more Tabard Cain novels I want to write — THE CITY OF SPIDERS and then THE HIDDEN TEMPLE — before switching gears. Both titles might change, so don’t hold me to them.

These four novels, then, will form the first great movement of the Tabard Cain saga. Once compete, I plan to move on to other projects (a post-apocolyptic fantasy series, a space opera series, and a series of horror novels all set in the same town, to name a few) while my creative subconscious works on the second, four-part Tabard Cain movement. How many movements do think there will be? I don’t know. I do know how the saga will end, though, and that’s something.

Now Available: THE KINGLESS WARRIOR

KinglessWarrior-eBook Cover

In a world of thievery and dark magic, one man seeks to learn the truth—of himself.

In Silvida, the most powerful city on the Ackpur Ocean, Tabard Cain seeks the truth of his past and a road to his future. But he finds himself caught between the intrigues of a shadowy thieving guild, the evil powers of a dark magician, and men who seek to overthrow the royal family and send the city into chaos. Forced to choose sides, Tabard must sneak into the royal palace and steal the legendary Mirror of Melyara—all with the hopes of saving the city … while unveiling the mysteries of his life, and finding a path to redemption.

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