As I am preparing for the release of The Libel of Blood in the near future, I have been thinking about how my writing has evolved over time to get me to the point I am at now. I believe that I have improved quite a bit since setting out on my journey.
I started out writing Fan Fiction in the Warhammer universe, and while on the forums I frequented it was lauded as good, it was contrived, formulaic, and serial, lacking any real substance and very limited continuity. However, the writing itself got better and better, until I think the year before I went to university it got rather good.
Then university came, and I decided to start writing in my own universes. I began with the first few chapters of Final Judgment, a book that will not be released for a long time. This book stars the shivvos, and marks the end of the Juxian Mythos universe. I shelved this project when I learned of NaNoWriMo, and decided to instead write a novel in a month.
And thus was born The Loneliness of Stars. It was written in a month, with another month of editing, and a second edition released a while after that. It was originally filled with typos (most of which – but not all of which – were cleared out in the second edition), and had very contrived plot sequences and caricatured characters. I went out of my way to create plot twists, and as my editor commented, you could practically hear me saying “and then suddenly surprise!” in my head. Many twists and turns seem contrived – at least to me – and most of the characters lack depth (main character aside). Many of the characters, despite being on a ship, don’t wear uniforms and instead wear ridiculous outfits reflecting their caricature. What was I thinking (fortunately, in subsequent books uniforms are more prevalent.)? It was also my first ever foray into the first-person, and I did it for an entire novel. It was an interesting experiment.
Still, despite these things – and the semi-directionless plot of the novel – the mechanics of the writing were good and I have been told it was an enjoyable read. Not bad for a first novel.
I originally had intended The Loneliness of Stars to be a one-off book, set in its own universe. Unfortunately, I found myself unable to tie up the plot-line effectively in one novel, and so in the middle of writing it decided not only to make it part of the universe of Final Judgment, but to extend it into multiple books. A trilogy, no less.
And so The Light of Civilization was born. This book was written over many months, and you can actually watch my writing improve as the book goes on. It picks up immediately where the first book leaves off, and serves as a grand introduction to the Juxian Mythos; it’s essentially a guided tour of the universe. It has a lot of infodumps in it, but the plot twists no longer seem contrived, the characters are much deeper, and the world much more developed. The Light of Civilization is much more well-written and executed, and I have heard it is more enjoyable than the first. I planned out more of the arc of The Light of Civilization than I had for The Loneliness of Stars, and I think it showed.
My horror short-story writing began while I was writing my second novel, and I believe that the writing skills I learned while writing these (characters, suspense, sentence structure awesomeness, and how to evoke feelings of horror) manifested themselves in The Light of Civilization (particularly in the scene with the Cult of the Final Apocalypse). I also was able to create a more effective monster in the form of Psy. The horror stories I also think are my best work; “The Winds of Madness” is my personal favorite of everything I’ve ever written.
The Libel of Blood is even better than the first two. It’s paced like a horror novel and is very back-heavy, but at this point I think I have managed to master the plot twist, so that it can come across without seeming contrived, and at the same time my character development skills have grown even greater (Roland van der Tyke, the villain of this book, is an example of a character who benefited from this improvement). I was able to find ways to avoid the infodumps in The Light of Civilization, and created an intricate and detailed world in this book. The pacing may seem a bit odd, and it is very back-heavy, but the structure is able to keep you reading until the huge climax at the end. This story was greatly influenced by my horror.
So, the point of this? I’ve gotten better. A lot better. If you read my three current novels, you will see the difference – and I hope you do consider picking them up and reading them.