My second video blog on the Lords of Midnight. This time I explore how the book came about and some of the challenges involved in writing it.
As the book is now not long from being released, I thought I would create a series of videos providing a bit of background to the creation of the novel, what’s involved and what the inspiration was. First up is the original game itself…
At 10:40 this morning I made the final tweaks to the final draft and sent the manuscript back to the publisher.
It’s been a long and weary road since completing the first draft back in December last year, but the difference between the two documents is striking. The final draft is polished, sharp, better structured and (hopefully) devoid of typos. Editing isn’t my favourite activity – I don’t know many writers who actually ‘enjoy’ it, but it’s utterly essential to the art of crafting a good story.
The editors scalpel can be painful to wield, but those cuts and incisions do make for a better book at the end of the day.
I am very happy with the final draft of Lords of Midnight. Chris and I have been back and forth through the lore of the game and the sequels, through all of the manuals and gameplay, even through some of Mike Singleton’s notes. We have consolidated all the existing lore, worked through the discrepancies and tried to use our judgement to decide on what Mike’s vision would have been where it wasn’t clear from the game or existing material.
We’ve created arcs which span beyond just a single book, mindful that we hope to be able to write more stories in Mike’s amazing worlds. We have tried to answer, where it makes sense, some of the open questions about Midnight itself and provide a bit of history of the world via the characters that have experienced it.
We made special effort to flesh out and differentiate the characters of Midnight; the primary cast of Luxor, Morkin, Corleth and Rorthron and the eponymous ‘Lords’, along with the other characters fans will be expecting to see. Conscious that there is a next book in the series with additional characters, we have woven in backstory for them too, to allow them to segue into the events of the following stories without simply ‘appearing’ in the narrative.
Next book, you say?
Yes! It was (and is) our intention to continue on with what we are currently calling ‘The Midnight Chronicles’. Lords of Midnight the game goes straight into Doomdark’s Revenge, the story doesn’t end here by any stretch of the imagination.
We’ve worked on the lore and the structure of this book to ensure we can continue into others. I’m very excited about writing Doomdark’s Revenge and then continuing further with the saga.
I’ve enjoyed writing my first fantasy book. If it is well received and sells well then it is very likely that more books will come – the commercial success does dictate whether we’ll be able to continue.
For now then, it’s back to the publisher. Cover art and typesetting is next on the list and with the book due to be available towards the end of May.
Night is almost over and the eastern sky grows bright. Not long until dawn!
It seems oddly appropriate that, having been working on the editing the Lords of Midnight for the last few weeks, there is still snow lying on the ground here at the official start of spring. It seems the Witchking’s power remains strong!
I’m going to take that as a good omen for now. Lords of Midnight stands at a solid third draft (152,188 words) at present. I’m currently working with my editor to refine that draft into a final version which can be sent for typesetting and, ultimately, printing.
Editing is a bit of a mystical dark art, but essentially it is tightening up the narrative, making the dialogue ‘zing’ and cutting out the unnecessary fat of the story, until you’re left with a lean, pacey story, free from typos with the right speed and energy to make the book absolutely compelling.
Having been through this process a few times now (Lords of Midnight is my sixth full-length novel) I’m always amazed at the improvement a solid edit makes. I’m very blessed to have an superb editor who understands both the genres of fantasy and sci-fi, but also understands the way I write and how I go about it. Only rarely do we disagree on what to do about a phrase or a passage, and that’s usually down to some obscure piece of lore – I typically get a comment in the margin saying “Are you sure this is what you mean?”
Editing is essential for a good book. Authors can procrastinate, fall in love with their world-building, over describe things, get carried away in the dialogue and forget to ground the reader in the scene, screw up points of view and slow the drama at the wrong times. A good editor doesn’t ‘read’ the book, they evaluate it critically, looking for these constructive errors and suggesting fixes. It’s the difference between having a story that ‘shows promise’ and a ‘great story’.
My best claim to fame in this regard is that I occasionally get complaints from my editor that I pull her out of ‘editing mode’ and into ‘reading mode’ and she has to mentally reset and back up before continuing on. I think that’s editor speak for ‘this is good’. 🙂
This work will continue for a while, but we are very close to the end now, folks. Bear with us for a few more weeks and you’ll be able to start your adventure in the lands of Midnight all anew. There’s a glimmer on the eastern horizon, dawn is not far away…
A quick update on the arrival of the Lords of Midnight novel. Been in conversations with my publisher (FBP) this week on the timing of editing, cover production, typesetting etc. Unfortunately, we have a further short delay. Editing, in particular, can’t be rushed and needs to be done properly.
Apologies for this, but it’s a combination of workload and a few other events beyond our control. The birth of books is never a straightforward thing!
We are now expecting the book to be available at the end of May this year (rather than March) about an additional 8 weeks.
On a more positive note, my wife is reading the draft at the moment (she’s particularly good at spotting plot-holes) and so far we have a thumbs up. She likes it more than my previous book, Elite Dangerous: Premonition!
Another milestone today on the road to the next book. The second draft is completed!
This is an essential point on the road to getting the book ready. We’re not quite done, that’s the third draft, but we’re a ways along from the first draft. 🙂
So what do we have at this stage?
Simply put, Chris and I have fixed the major continuity issues, we’ve sorted out the pace and the structure, we have an end-to-end story that works. All the lore aspects have been checked and adjusted where necessary. This is the biggest concern at this stage, particularly as Lords of Midnight is very ‘lore heavy’, there’s a lot of detail that needs to be right, both for this book and for potential future ones.
Much of the stuff that is mentioned in the Lords of Midnight foreshadows the events of the other games in the series, and we want to be able to write those books too. Thus we’ve planned to ensure there is an ongoing continuity to the lore that will straddle several stories. Hopefully we will see the events of Doomdark’s Revenge, The Citadel and the Eye of the Moon.
So what’s next – that would be the third draft!
The second draft gets sent to professional editors, who sort out all the detailed ‘writing craft’ issues; POV, typos, repetition, overused adverbs, clichés, dodgy dialogue and so on. Basically tidying it up and making the scripts punchy and tight. It makes a massive difference to the quality of what you end up reading.
All those changes come back to me for review. Typically I agree with about 95% of them. A few I will reject (usually because the editor doesn’t understand the lore in depth and they’ve picked on on something lore specific which looks odd) and a few will be just because I prefer the original.
After that? It’s proofreader time. I have a bunch of folks that will read my book with a view to eradicating any remaining typos (they are tricky beasts to get rid of!). Then that final version goes back… and it’s turned a book!
Yesterday I reached a major milestone in the production of my latest book, The Lords of Midnight. The first draft is complete!
Those of you who have followed this blog for quite some time will know that this is an important step, it means there is a ‘story’ end-to-end based on the original plot and direction and that the greater bulk of the writing itself is done.
Yet, in some ways, it’s just the start!
From here the story has to be tweaked and fettled. I do edit quite a lot as I go on, so this draft isn’t as rough as many fellow authors’ would be, it’s probably more akin to what most writers would consider a ‘second draft’, but it still needs a lot of work.
From a pure editing perspective there will be typos, grammar issues, clunky sentences, insufficient character differentiation, repeating words and phrases, too much or too little description, continuity errors and bad POV changes and scene transitions. This is quite tedious to fix, but I’m fortunate to have an excellent editor with her red pen poised to wreak bloody havoc over my manuscript…
However, before that, the story needs to have its lore, characters, situations and overall feel checked by the LoreMaster himself; in the case of the Lords of Midnight this is the inestimable Chris Wild who is both the expert and the ultimate decision maker on the lore as it relates to Mike Singleton’s world. As of yesterday evening a draft is with Chris for review and comment.
Thus there is an awful lot of work still to do, we may have won a skirmish, but the battle continues!
However, having skim read what we have already, I’m confident we have a good foundation to build upon. For me, after the event, it’s fascinating to see the differences between the first draft and the final edit. There are massive changes in some places, minor nips and tucks in others.
It’s all aimed at ensuring the book, and the story it tells, is of the highest possible quality. This book was original promised back in 1984 by Beyond, the company that published the original game – they failed in that particular quest. 33 years later we’re on track to close that circle – but we want to ensure that we do the best job we can, making something that Mike himself would be proud of and that lays a solid foundation for future books if this one is successful.
For now then, a brief hiatus as the year draws to an end. The Solstice is here, but before long glad hearts and minds will turn to longer days and the promise of spring. A new dawn for Midnight cometh!
A little bit of a milestone today – signed off the official Elite Dangerous forums for an extended leave of absence, after a 5 year stint I’m leaving that universe behind me and moving on to pastures new. I’m not involved with the game content at all any more – so please don’t ask me about the v2.4 narrative or the Thargoids – nothing to do with me!
Oddly enough, I played the original Elite for about 5 years (from 1984 to 1989) when I headed off to university, so it feels like a good time to move on after a similar timescale. I’ve uninstalled the game from my PC (along with a few other games too) in order to focus all of my spare time into my own creative endeavours – no distractions – though I’ll obviously be popping along to conventions and community events where I can.
In its place comes the space simulator “Space Engine” which provides similar, and often even better looking, space backdrops with the advantage that I can ‘go anywhere instantly’ and programmatically alter the contents with a bit of scripting. I’ve also acquired a commercial license for it, allowing me to export and use videos from it without having to worry about royalties. That gives me huge flexibility and creative control I didn’t have with ED.
Alongside this I’m also learning some 3D character animation software – I rather liked the ED character creator, but it was very limited, now I’ve got the opportunity to create animated characters all of my own.
With the combination of these two elements, a truly compelling narrative, some music and a lot of work, I’ve got all I need to make my own audio and video stories.
These will, naturally, be based on my books – the bread and butter of what I do won’t change – hopefully I’ll be able to crank them out faster.
What I have decided to do is expand the Shadeward universe quite dramatically. Shadeward is set in a semi-post apocalyptic setting, but the event that precedes the Shadeward series of books is only alluded to, never detailed. I plan to go back there and write books about that, but also go forward to alternative worlds that are concurrent with Shadeward, and tell other stories.
Whereas the folks in the Shadeward series suffered from regression in their technology, other worlds may have advanced in the same time frame, leading to the possibility that worlds not too far away may have very advanced technology.
In short this gives me the ability to write a space opera in the same setting, combining the best of what I did in my ED books in a new and more consistent universe where I don’t need to worry about ‘retcons’ or the limitation of gameplay. I can also stick to ‘real’ physics too. What I plan on providing is a space opera series set in this universe which fans of my ED books will find familiar in many ways – politics, skullduggery, machinations, space battles and so on – but in a fresh new environment and backed up by some ‘transmedia’ content in the shape of audio and video.
With my ED books I could never be in full control of my destiny, as I was subject to decisions that could sometimes overrule the stories I wanted to tell. I couldn’t construct as much detail in the plots as I wanted to, as I was never sure whether I’d be able to continue the story in the time-frame I needed, which required me to wrap things up – sometimes prematurely. There will be no such limitations for the upcoming books – I’ll release them when I’m ready and I’ll be free to convert them into whatever media I want to, when I want to – that gives you, the reader; listener and watcher – a better end result too.
So what is coming?
The expanded Shadeward universe (working title ‘Diaspora’) will be my ‘magnum opus’ 😉 In total I plan for it to be 16 books (4 of which are the classic Shadeward series) – 4 will be a high tech ‘space opera’, 4 will have an ‘exploration’ focus and 4 will tell the story of ‘what happened before’. That’s a lot of stuff (another 14 years worth) ! By the time I’m finished I’ll be somewhere near 60 and ready to retire.
Alongside this, I’m hoping to continue working on the Midnight Chronicles too – expanding the Lords of Midnight official novels – assuming the first one is successful. 🙂
So, moving on from ED is going to result in more stories… and I’m confident they will even better than what has gone before. Right now I’m close to completing Lords of Midnight – Shadeward 3 is up next… and the project will continue.
Thanks to all of you who have supported me in my writing all the way from my Oolite fan fiction and through the Elite Dangerous novels – I hope you’ll stick with me for more adventures in the void.
Rather pleased to announce that my latest book, the official novel Elite Dangerous: Premonition, won ‘Book of the Month‘ over at KindOfBook.Com.
Premonition was selected as a nominee amongst 12 other books that have recently been published and was the only SF novel in the mix.
One of the other novels was (and is!) an Amazon bestseller, sitting in the top 100 ebooks sold. Another was by a New York Times bestselling author. Frankly, once I saw that I didn’t think Premonition had a chance, but I was honoured to be included.
After a few days Premonition had pushed itself into a credible third place, unsurprisingly behind both of the novels mentioned above. However, with a few posts on social media, the FDev forums, reddit and a mention in the FDev newsletter (Thanks to Ed and Zac!) the word got out and Premonition’s share of the vote began to climb.
Soon we were in second place, and a few days before the end of the competition, the combined might of the Elite Dangerous community and the fanbase for my stories pushed Premonition into a commanding lead, 15% ahead of the bestselling Amazon entry.
To be frank I was a little gobsmacked by the result, but I shouldn’t have been. Time and again the Elite Dangerous community has proved its worth, it’s ability to mobilise and come together to support things.
This was also brought back this week in a different way. The charity I support with 10% of the proceeds of my books suffered from theft compounded by an arson attack. They pretty much lost everything as a result, utterly devastating. They’ve been working for years to support young people who’ve fallen out of school and college and need help getting their lives back together.
My family and I set up a JustGiving page to raise a few funds to help them get back on their feet. We set a modest target, and cracked it in a few days, but then the word got out to the Elite Dangerous community once more. In fact, the community got behind the funding before I had a chance to ask them. Lave Radio, Obsidian Ant, NatScrambles, Malic and DJTruthSayer were already on the case. As a result funding has skyrocketed to over £2,000. An amazing, humbling and astonishing result.
The page is still live if you’d like to donate > https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/andrew-wagar
Once more, I can only say a big thankyou. The Elite Dangerous community has supported me far more than I could ever have hoped for. You’re all brilliant.
Right on, Commanders.
The top question I’ve received regarding Elite Dangerous: Premonition (well, other than about boy wizards) has been “When is the audiobook version coming out?”
A little backstory here, if I may. 🙂
When I was writing my first Elite Dangerous novel, Reclamation, back in 2013, I wasn’t really all that aware of audiobooks. I did recall them from my youth, when I’d listened to Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe, but at the time it hadn’t occurred to me that you did that sort of thing with science fiction.
However, when I undertook a small reading at the original LaveCon back in 2013, the response was hugely positive and it quickly became clear that I had to find a way to provide an audio version of Reclamation. Fortunately my publisher, Fantastic Books, was able, via Kickstarter, to fund the recording of Reclamation and by combining the voice talents of the wonderful Toby Longworth and the recording and edit expertise of Chris Jarvis, Elite Dangerous: Reclamation the audiobook came into existence.
You can play a sample here, courtesy of Audible.
Audiobooks are extremely popular. They provide some notable conveniences. It’s impossible to read a book when you’re driving, but an audiobook is the perfect accompaniment to a long journey – and that applies whether your commute is on a road, train or in supercruise! Some folks either don’t enjoy reading directly, or don’t have the time, whereas an audiobook can fill in that gap.
Additionally, audiobooks bring a different dramatic emphasis to the story. I’ve listened to Reclamation myself and it comes across in a new way in its audio format – not better or worse, but different. The addition of actors, actresses, editors and sound technicians adds new creative ingredients.
Fast forward a few years and the sequel, Elite Dangerous: Premonition is out in ebook and paperback… so where is the audio version?
The answer to that question is that the decision rests with Frontier Developments themselves. Whereas I Kickstarted my license for Reclamation, and FBP kickstarted the production costs of the audio work for it, this time around Premonition is Frontier’s IP, their book. I was commissioned to write it, but the production of different versions of the book is up to them.
Creating an book isn’t cheap, but creating an audiobook is significantly more expensive. You have to pay actors/actresses and their expenses, you have to hire a studio, you have to pay for extensive editing, potentially license music and incorporate sound effects. Ultimately it’s a commercial decision – will sales of the audiobook justify the costs involved in creating it? Can Frontier make a profit? They’re a business at the end of the day.
Many folks want an audiobook version of Premonition. For Frontier to be able to gauge that demand, a forum thread has been set up. If you genuinely want a copy of Premonition in audiobook format, please let them know with a post to that forum, indicating your support and the reason you want it.
Essentially, the more people who indicate their support, the more likely they are to product it – it’s as simple as that! 🙂
At the time of writing 3 pages of posts are already there, which is fabulous. Please keep it coming. I’d love to see this happen myself.
Right on, (and listen on!), Commanders!