Release Day for Darwen II!

First, thanks to Faith and Misty for switching their schedules with me so I can post on release day!

Today, the second in my middle grades series, Darwen Arkwright and the Insidious Bleck, hits shelves, and I thought I’d tell you something about the high wire act which is writing the second book of a series.

The original cover Darwen II art as it appeared on the ARC

To be clear, this is a second stand alone story in the Darwen universe. There are larger plot lines being developed from book to book, but each volume is its own story with a beginning, middle and end. They are probably richest read in order, but they don’t have to be.

Book 1, Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact, introduced the core characters (Darwen, Rich and Alex) and established their world (Hillside Academy in Atlanta) and the key issue: there are […]

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The Noble Art of Hopscotch. Or how to get from one scene to another when you don’t know what comes between them.

I have recently emerged from a massive structural edit of my third DARWEN ARKWRIGHT book, and I have to say that it was a tough one, maybe the hardest I’ve ever done. There were some substantial rethinkings of plot and character which I’d come to, thanks to my excellent editor at Razorbill, but which felt so immense that for a couple of weeks after getting the memo and coming to terms with its rightness, I felt utterly paralyzed.

In the end I think I rewrote about a third of the book entirely, throwing out (or rather cutting and pasting into a separate file) a good 25,000 words and replacing them with the same number of new ones plus another 10,000 for good measure. Even sections I didn’t significantly alter got moved around, sometimes dramatically, so that at times the process felt like being in a massive hedge maze, where turns […]

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On Creativity and Writing: Making the Most of Ideas, part I

As I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, the original idea for Thieftaker and its sequels came originally from a footnote in a history book that described the life of one particular thieftaker, London’s notorious Jonathan Wild. A footnote. In a book I was reading for reasons that had nothing whatsoever to do with writing.

Ideas are funny things. They come from everywhere. They come unbidden, and will absolutely refuse to come if I TRY to force them. They can come in any form: characters, plot points, magic systems, worlds that present themselves to me, etc. They all begin with “What if?”, but from there they take on lives of their own, becoming as individual as children. Often they come at the worst possible times; they are particularly likely to show up when I’m in the middle of working on something else, most likely the last book of […]

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Performing the Invasive Edit

I’ve been hard at work on the third in my Darwen Arkwright series for a little over a month now and had managed to get about 55,000 words done when I ran into a problem. My outline was uneven: detailed in parts, very sketchy in others, and though that wasn’t necessarily a difficulty of itself, I realized that I was fast coming to the end of the plot well short of my word count. This also isn’t a huge problem of itself, because my editorial process always tends to add stuff as I realize what the book is really about and how I might make it richer, so I always try to keep my first draft short.

But this time I realized I had a pace and tone problem. The entire final half of the book had become a protracted action sequence, and while Stuff Happening is generally a good […]

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On Writing: Character Dynamics

We talk about character a lot here at Magical Words. And I mean A LOT. I’ve written about the ABCs of character, befriending characters, character development, creating minor characters, and character descriptions. Just a couple of weeks ago I wrote about characters we love and hate. That’s half a dozen character posts, and those are just from me.

There’s a reason for this, of course. Character, as any professional fiction writer will tell you, is the key to good storytelling. A story with poorly drawn characters is simply doomed to fail; a story with weak plotting or worldbuilding can often be rescued, at least partially, by stellar character work. Character development is an author’s bread and butter.

The problem with all of the stuff I’ve written about character is that it fails to take the next step, and that’s what I want to write about today. This may seem so […]

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Writer Identity: Who do you want to be?

“I wanna be Bob Dylan. Mr. Jones wishes he was someone just a little more funky…”

(Counting Crows)

Fantasy folks—writers, movie buffs, cosplay devotees, gamers and all the other kind of people you might rub elbows with at a major convention—are united by the playful desire to be someone else. No, I’m not saying such folk (myself included) are delusional or in some kind of denial about who they really are, hence my use of the word “playful.” I mean that we often play a version of the ‘what if’ game which hinges on imagining you are someone different.

This is, I think, healthy, and today I’d like to indulge the impulse a little, but give it a literary spin, and not towards imagining yourself as a literary character (though that might be a fun game for another day). So, simple question: which writer would you most like to be?


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Breaking Grammar Rules: Sentence Fragments

When Scribe suggested I did a post on sentence fragments, my first thought was that I didn’t have enough to say about the subject. But as many of you have learned to your considerable chagrin, I’m a word guy, and there is no subject on earth on which I won’t wax eloquent if given the right pulpit. So, dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to talk about fragments.

Full disclosure: I am not what my students sometimes refer to as a “grammar Nazi.” Brits in general tend to view grammar as descriptive rather than prescriptive (i.e. we see it as essentially describing common usage, not as legislating what common usage should be). Grammar changes overtime as language evolves and you won’t find me getting hot under the collar over pedantic fights over whether to split infinitives no man has split before. (For the record, that particular complaint is derived […]

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