Charles Yallowitz on Writing a Series #tips #epicfantasy

I’m kicking off the New Year with a guest post from fellow writer, Charles Yallowitz. Charles has just released the final book in his Legends of Windemere series. Last summer, I completed the final book in my Point Pleasant Series, and found the experience both challenging and rewarding. It was my first time creating story arcs that spanned multiple books. Three books to be precise. The Legends of Windemere spans fifteen books. Mind-boggling! How does Charles maintain the focus and energy needed to write such an involved series? Check out his tips below—and don’t forget to check out the Legends of Windemere: Warlord of the Forgotten Age while you’re at it!

Book cover for The Legends of Windemere: Warlord of the Forgotten Age by Charles Yallowtiz

Thank you to Mae Clair for letting me write a post for her blog and helping to promote, Legends of Windemere: Warlord of the Forgotten Age.  This is the final book of my fantasy adventure series and it’s been a long road that has spanned 19 years and 15 volumes. It isn’t easy to keep things flowing, especially when you’re publishing 3 books a year. This goes along with a heavy outlining, writing, and editing system, which wear on the mojo. Avoiding burn out is a key to making it through such a massive project, so here are some tricks that I’ve used over the years to push forward.

  1. Rewards for finishing a stage of the process can be a great motivator. I know many say that writing and publishing are their own rewards.  That’s true, but you can’t have enough bronze rings on a long journey.  Just ask Sonic the Hedgehog.  This can be anything too.  I use pizza to celebrate finishing a first draft and publishing a book, which is something I don’t treat myself to when I’m working.  So, there’s a denial aspect in here too.
  2. Side projects can help because they take you away from the main one. You know how people tell you to leave a book alone before you edit?  Well, this is the same thing only it adds the idea of doing something else. Now, this can be poetry, another book, or even something that has nothing to do with writing.  By the time you finish this other project, you’ll be returning to the main one with renewed energy and excited.
  3. Push yourself to the limit, cry in public, and rant about how nobody understands artists. Throw in at least one mention of ‘suffocation’ or ‘stifling’.  End this by thanking everyone for coming over for the holidays.  You can get a good week or two of focus out of this one, but it might cost you some birthday cards.
  4. You know how I hinted that sitting there and doing nothing might not be a good idea? Well, don’t knock lounging around for a weekend or week. It really depends on how worn you are and what you want to do for recovery.  My favorite thing is to choose a DVD boxset and watch that while keeping a notebook nearby.  I don’t consider outlining and character designing as heavy work, so they’re part of my relaxation period. Other options are reading a book, doing a thorough cleaning of the house, and seeing if your family remembers who you are.
  5. Never be afraid to take a day off from writing if you feel that something is off. I’ve had quite a few instances where my mood wasn’t right because of something going on in my life or some other outside influence. Even the weather can wear me out in hours, which puts the writing at risk. Pushing yourself through these periods can work in your favor, but it’s just as likely that you burn out. This sensation of feeling off could really be the onset of a writer’s block or doubt, so pay attention to your instincts.
  6. Believe it or not, exercising can be a good energy booster. It surprised me too when I started using my stationary bike every other morning. Aside from building up some adrenaline and waking up your body, you can let your mind wander on the writing of the day.  Consider the scenes and decide on the points you want to hit or simply imagine what it might turn out like.  This has a secondary benefit of helping you go into the writing with less mental clutter since you’ve already sorted through stuff to some extent.
  7. Talk to other authors. Sure, we aren’t known as the most sociable bunch, but that’s only with outsiders. When you need someone to understand your worries and pains, another author is the way to go. Maybe somebody has a tactic to help you over a hump or you’ll find inspiration for something that was giving you trouble. In the end, it’s just nice to share your thoughts without being judged.

Again, thank you to Mae Clair for giving me this time.  Please feel free to check out Legends of Windemere: Warlord of the Forgotten Age or help spread the word to those who love fantasy adventures.  Enjoy the adventure.

Author, Charles YallowitzAbout the author:
Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.

Connect with Charles at the following haunts:
Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Website

All cover art done by JASON PEDERSEN

Catch the rest of the LEGENDS OF WINDEMERE on Amazon!

A Writer’s Life: Euphoria and Frustration

Happy Last Day of November. Whew! In a little over a month, we’ll be looking at the start of a brand-new year.

Fresh starts are always great. We set out to achieve new goals and break old habits. When it comes to writing, a fresh start—i.e, a new manuscript—falls somewhere between euphoria and frustration for me.

I love beginning a new book.
There are character names to decide, backgrounds to construct, settings to create, and plot bunnies to round up.

I hate beginning a new book.
There are character names to decide, backgrounds to construct, settings to create, and plot bunnies to round up.

Getting the picture? Euphoria and frustration.

I’m currently constructing book two of my Hode’s Hill series. The original plan for this novel was to tie in the life of a carnival sideshow performer of the late 1800s (think freakshow). What can I say—I like odd. I even spent a good deal of time on research.

It was only after I finished book one of the series, Cusp of Night, that I saw too much similarity in theme. Since I didn’t want End of Day to appear repetitious, I scratched the idea and came up with a new one that utilizes old legends of Church Grims and Folk Memories.

Great, right? I was jazzed about the change until I wrote the opening. I read it through once and thought it was crap. Not the power passage I was looking for to start a new book. It left me feeling like this…

woman with glasses has head down, hands clasped in hair, looking exhausted. Open laptop and blank notebook on desk in front of her

Sulking, I avoided the file for three days before I opened it again. Guess what? Everyone says wait and read with fresh eyes. My beginning needed a few tweaks to spruce it up, but they were minor when I put everything in perspective. Frustration gave way to euphoria.

Close up of woman screaming in excitment

It’s made me realize that as much as I love dreaming up a new project, sitting down and writing the first few scenes is the hardest part of the novel. At least, for me. I second guess everything—and I do mean everything. From the strength of the opening scene to the way my characters behave—to the segues between scenes and chapters, I drive myself batty. I don’t think I truly get comfortable until I’m at least halfway through the manuscript.

As an example, I wrote half of Cusp of Night feeling disconnected from my main character, Hannah Norfolk. It took me that long to realize she needed a stronger background, and the name “Hannah” didn’t fit her. Once she became Maya Sinclair and I beefed up her history, she started to write herself. Of course, those changes—especially her personal background—meant altering earlier chapters and a major plot thread. It’s a good thing I have an understanding and adaptable critique partner (thank you, Staci!).

For now, I’m in euphoria-mode again. I like my beginning, I have direction, and things are going well. I know it’s only a matter of time until frustration rears its ugly head, but I’ll ride this wave for as long as I can.

How about you? What aspects of working on a new project do you find the most maddening? What inspires moments of sheer bliss? Am I the only one who waffles between euphoria and frustration, or is it simply the norm for a writer’s life?

I Said I Wouldn’t…Then I Did #writingaseries

I’m kind of embarrassed to be writing this post. You may recall last fall when I was struggling to meet the deadline for book 3 of my Point Pleasant series, I swore up and down I would NEVER write a series again. No way, huh-uh, not gonna happen.

But you know where I’m headed, right?

The process unfolded like this:

I finished A Desolate Hour (Book 3 of Point Pleasant) and realized that for the first time in two years I didn’t have a deadline hanging over my head. That was liberating, but also kind of scary. I could just…write. No communication with my editor or publisher, just me in a void with my muse.

I dug out an old (really old) trunk novel that I felt had possibility and started tinkering with it. I rewrote the beginning, trashed it, rewrote it again, trashed it again, and started fresh.

spiral notepad and books on deskAbout that time my editor (Editor B) contacted me to say her boss (Editor A) wanted to see a new book proposal from me. Um, Editor A?!?!?  He ranks up there in the house, so I was notably blown away that he was requesting something from me! As expected, I danced around on clouds for an afternoon.

Editor A wanted a series—uh-oh—but agreed to take a look at my stand-alone novel. I polished up the first three chapters along with a synopsis, and shipped it off to Editor B who agreed to review it before sending it to her boss.

I don’t know if was from spending too much time hunched over a keyboard, but my lower back suddenly became a quagmire of pain. Back pain is something I’ve had for a while, and for the most part I know how to manage so that it’s not severe. Not this time. The pain was debilitating. So nasty it involved a trip to the doctor for medication.

About that time Editor B emailed to say she thought the (trunk) novel needed a stronger opening, and suggested a few ideas for improvement. Another rewrite? I was starting to think the trunk novel wasn’t the gem I hoped it to be. All the euphoria I felt when Kensington asked for a proposal evaporated.

woman at laptop covering her face

On the plus side, my back pain also disappeared, but the medication left me wired (I quickly ditched it). For a single night, unable to sleep, I plotted an entire novel from start to finish in my head. When morning rolled around, I slunk into my den and poured out four pages of notes, which I promptly emailed to Editor B.

She liked the sound of the book—a mystery incorporating two time periods, one in the present, the other in the late 1800s. She suggested I draft a synopsis from my notes and submit it with the first three chapters so that she could share it with her boss. I added the task to my to-do list.

Before I had a chance to start the book (unknown to me) Editor A emailed my editor to ask if she’d received a proposal from me. All she had were my rough notes, but she sent them to Editor A—only telling me after Editor A came back saying he loved them. He agreed to give me a contract based on my notes. No standard submission process, no two to three month waiting period. Can we say, gobsmacked?!?!

If there is any downside, it’s that Kensington wanted another series. After some back and forth exchanges, we finally arrived at a time frame I can work with and still maintain my sanity. I’m happy to announce book number one of the Hode’s Hill series—The Blue Lady of Hode’s Hill—will release next summer. I just finished all the preliminary paperwork (cover art, production forms, etc.) A mystery suspense novel, Blue Lady will also contain a few supernatural twists, some historical references and a bit of urban legend. Would you expect anything less? 🙂

Book cover for A Desolate Hour by Mae Clair shows a small town overlooking a river at night, full moon overhead, cover in wash of green red and black with white letteringSo here I am, writing a series again. I guess it goes to show you should never say never.

And while I work on Blue Lady, I’m looking forward to the final novel in my Mothman series. If you haven’t grabbed it already, A Desolate Hour is available for pre-order and will release on July 18th.

Looks like I’m in this game for the long haul!