Thorns of Chaos Blog Tour: Writing a Novel? Where to Start.

Writing a Novel? Where to Start.

by: Jeremiah Cain author of Thorns of Chaos

To begin with, I should note there’s no single way to write a book. Authors, like all artists, should find their own, unique creative path that works for them. However, in finding the path I use, I found (and still find) it helpful to read about how other authors tackle the daunting task of taking those important first steps in the long journey of completing a novel.

That said, I started as a pantster. The novel I wrote in high school and the next two novels I wrote afterward were all made up as I went along. I had a general idea of where they were going, but for the most part, they just flowed without a real plan. For me, it was a good creative exercise, but I don’t plan to publish them. However, the time was not wasted. The pantster—I hate that word—books help me develop the world of Perdinok. A mythology developed as did cultures and various religions. A lot of aspects changed considerably as I worked out all the kinks. However, I found that as the story changed along the way, it caused the need for major revision and complete rewrites. Granted, any method is going to require revision and rewrites, but for me, the pantster method required a lot more.

Currently, I am a plotter. That doesn’t mean it’s the only way to write a novel. It’s just the way I prefer. Inspired by great speculative fiction series that had spanned years and many books, I wanted to come right out of the gate with a fully realized world that fits together in a smooth continuity. That said, although this first book—Thorns of Chaos—is not officially part of The Encroaching Chaos series that launches in June, it still fits firmly in the continuity. Because all the pieces need to fit together as one timeline without contradictions, plotting is particularly important for what I’m doing (no one likes retcons). Once I figure out the general plot of the series and how each book will play its part, then I’m able to focus on the smaller scale of plotting out the novel.

I should pause and note that the definition of plotter and pantster is probably different for every author. Occasionally, an author dies and someone is able to write his/her unwritten novel from the author’s notes. That’s not going to happen with me. My plotting is not even close to that extensive—at least not the written-down parts—but it does create a guide to keep my writing on track.

For me, I like to start plotting on a tablet that I can write on with a stylus—I used to do this with pen and paper so either works. I start by writing down my general vision for the book and the things I already know I want to happen. Then, I start brainstorming as I fill in the gaps between them. At the same time, I start getting to know my characters and gaining an understanding of how they act and react. I also start researching various topics to get a good understanding of the details that I’ll want to go into the book, and I develop the setting. This prewriting phase might take weeks or longer, but it helps me conceive a full idea of what’s going to happen from beginning to end.

The standard plot points (easily looked up online) are a helpful guide, but not required. Sometimes I use them, sometimes I don’t. It’s up to you. The important thing is to create some structure and break up your novel into smaller, manageable parts that work together to create an overall plotline.

I divide my books into eight, equal sequences and write out a general idea of what happens in each. The eight sequences coincide with the more common acts but are just divided further. The description of each sequence is only a few paragraphs, not a whole outline, but they help me get a good understanding of what is going to happen all the way through.

After that, I focus just on sequence one and break it down further into chapters. These may or may not be the final chapter divisions—that’s not important at this step. Since, at this point, you already know how the sequence begins and ends and roughly what happens in between, it’s easier to figure out the details. Each chapter—ideally each paragraph—should have a purpose to move the story to the end of the sequence and ultimately to the end of the novel.

Finally, I get to writing. This might seem like a lot of effort before the actual writing part of writing, but now that you have all the big picture parts written down, you can concentrate on the details. This is probably my favorite part of the system I use—since you know where the story, or more specifically the sequence, is going, you can let your characters do their thing and just nudge them in the right direction if they get too far off course.

I like to write this rough draft by hand (stylus on a tablet) because I can write more creatively that way, but whatever method you use, this draft is about getting the ideas in writing. Perfecting it comes in later drafts.

After sequence one, I move on to sequence two, and so on. I don’t detail the sequences until I get to them, so there’s still a little of pantster in there, but overall I find everything goes smoother after taking time to plan things out.

Thorns of Chaos - Jeremiah Cain
Jeremiah Cain has a new MM fantasy romance out: Thorns of Chaos. And there’s a giveaway.

“Cain crafts a vivid world … rich with detail and myth-lore that traipses brightly through the darker themes of oppression and suffering.” –BookLife Reviews

Queer Grimdark Fantasy: Finn is no hero, chosen born, or noble. Despite escalating tensions from the Dayigan soldier’s occupation of Feah lands, the happy-go-lucky twenty-five-year-old is content to spend his days fishing and flirting with the other men in his Celtic-like village. But everything changes at their midyear’s eve festival when an angry Dayigan commander catches Finn in the arms of another man. Suddenly framed for murder, he must flee his village or face death.

However, Finn isn’t the Dayigans’ only target. They believe all Feahs are wicked and intend to destroy them by any means necessary. The Feahs’ one hope of stopping the reign of terror is to find a relic forged by dark faeries and able to control chaos magic-and claim it to protect themselves. With the fate of the Feah lands resting on his shoulders, Finn seeks out sorcerers who practice ancient, forbidden magic.

Instead, he finds love with the handsome but fierce head of the sorcerers–and a power he never knew he could possess.

But when the Dayigans strike, can Finn harness the perilous magic to save his people without losing himself in the process?

Warnings: violence, sexual content, harsh language, homophobia, major character death

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Thorns of Chaos meme
Finn jumped up from the shore and spread his wings before pushing them down to gain lift.

He kept a low flight of about thirty feet and could see their village as he passed.

A dozen rowboats—wicker frames covered in skins—lay inverted in a line on the shore. Just past where sand turned to grass, but before turning to forest, a small cluster of homes stood within a fence of long, thin branches woven horizontally between rough posts. Each of the houses had low mud walls and tall conical roofs of thatch.

Finn saw that all the villagers had gathered outside around the houses. Many held torches. A few children chased each other just above the roofs in aerial frolics.

Down the shoreline, Finn continued flying toward the Dayigan fort.

Ominous walls of thick logs, standing two stories high and sharpened, surrounded the roughly square fortress at a hundred and fifty feet across.

When the Dayigans had first arrived four years ago and built their walls, Finn’s people were aghast that they would rip down so much of their forest for such a pointless thing. The structures inside the walls were wooden too, with roofs shingled with green-painted wood. Wooden docks extended from the fort out into the river. Three large sailing ships—not built from these forests but from some forest somewhere—rocked within the tide.

At each corner of the fort, a tower extended higher, and from the center of each, a mast held a smaller horizontal pole at its peak. From each, an emerald green banner hung like a warning in the wind. In gold thread, it bore the sun and both moons in an upward-pointing triangle. A downward-pointing triangle, below the first, represented the distant island city of Dayigo. It screamed, “This is ours now, not yours,” a sentiment echoed by the fort’s inhabitants.

Finn knew better than to enter the fort. Instead, he landed on the shore just outside the wall.

There, the ground was planked over in a level boardwalk. Stalls ran along the edges. The area should have been bursting with goods from all across the continent, but it was empty.

Holding his salmon like a smelly newborn, Finn stared, disappointed and unsure what to do.

Lann landed beside him. “Won’t get much trading done here.”

“’Tis market day, is it not?”

“Aye, it were market day when it were day,” Lann said. “But ’tis not day no more. Come on then, let’s go back. Chief Kaie will have enough gifts without yours, so.”

“I’ve come this far, though, haven’t I,” Finn said. “Might as well see if someone’s about.”

Finn walked forward and stepped up on the boardwalk. He stopped and gasped, clutching his fish to his chest.

A Dayigan soldier stood guard. He was Human—a race like the Terovae, but without wings. They had hairy faces, and though some were thin, like Terovaes, others could grow wider with either muscle or fat. This soldier was larger in the muscular variety, and a suit of chainmail, covered by a green tabard, armored him.

The soldier eyed Finn but didn’t turn his way.

Finn had also found Humans to be a little angry all the time.

“Go on then,” Lann prompted behind Finn. “’Twill be midnight ’fore you’re done.”

Finn breathed deeply and approached.

“Good evening to you, Dayigan friend,” Finn said. “Hate to be a bother, sir, but I’ve come for a quick trade, and I’ll pop off.”

Maintaining his rigid posture and staring forward, the Human replied gruffly. “The market’s shut for the month.”

“Aye, that be true,” Finn said. “And I hate I missed it, but ’tis a special night, this. Tonight, my people—the Feah, well, all the Five Tribes really—celebrate Midyear’s Eve. That’s the end of the dark season and the start of the light season. I’m sure your God Déagar would have a special place in his heart for that, right? Light season, like. And you see, there’s this tradition where we all get a gift for the chief druidess, and I, fool I am, forgot. And to make things worse, me brother’s a temple guardian and his wife—my sister by marriage—she’s not only a druidess, herself, but no less the second-in-command of our whole fecking tribe.” He breathed. “So, ’twill go well noticed if I show up with naught but empty hands and shrugged shoulders, won’t it now?”

The soldier said nothing.

“Right,” Finn said. “What can I get for this then?” He held up the salmon. “A basket of eggs would be lovely. The druidesses use them for the beernog.”

“There’s plenty of fish in the river. We can get our own.”

“That be true, yes. But this fish isn’t in the river, is it? No, this fish is ready and waiting for yourself. And that saves you all the bother of fishing it out.”

The Human turned his head toward Finn and glared a moment. He snatched the fish by its tail. He held it, looked at it, and threw it.

The salmon flew a limp and uneventful flight to hit the boardwalk’s edge, head slapping wood with a spray of blood. It fell to splat on the beach at the water’s edge.

The Human chuckled. “Looks like ’tis in the river to me.”

“Fucking Human!” Lann charged forward to fight.

The soldier drew his sword. “You want to fight me, savage? I’ll gut the both of you before you can—”

“No call for that,” Finn said. “We’re all friends having a chat like.”

Lann stopped but glared.

Finn walked to Lann and patted his chest, now flexed along with the rest of his tense body.

“I don’t think he wants to trade at all,” Finn said. Turning back to the soldier, he added, “We’ll be on our way then. Good night to you.”

The soldier didn’t lower his sword, and Lann didn’t relax.

“The village’ll be waiting for us now,” Finn insisted.

Lann spit on the plank-covered ground.

Finn pushed Lann’s shoulder to turn him.

The Terovaes flew away.

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