What it Takes to Write a Book

Discover a great new suspense thriller in Dan Jolley’s The Storm Blog Tour, taking place February 18-25!

An intense tale that explores murder, mystery, and race relations in a rural area of modern-day Georgia, The Storm delivers a captivating reading experience!

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About the author: Dan Jolley began writing professionally at age 19. Starting out in comic books, Dan has worked for major publishers such as DC (Firestorm), Marvel (Dr. Strange), Dark Horse (Aliens), and Image (G.I. Joe), and soon branched out into licensed-property novels (Star Trek), film novelizations (Iron Man), and original novels, including the Middle Grade Urban Fantasy series Five Elements and the Urban Sci-Fi Gray Widow Trilogy.

Dan began writing for video games in 2007, and has contributed storylines, characters, and dialogue to titles such as Transformers: War for Cybertron, Prototype 2, and Dying Light, among others. Dan lives with his wife Tracy and a handful of largely inert felines in northwest Georgia, and enjoys connecting with readers via his website (www.danjolley.com) and on Twitter (@_DanJolley).

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Book Synopsis for The Storm:  

RED SPRINGS.

A tiny town in Georgia’s northwest corner — ninety-five percent white. Five percent black. Utterly unprepared for the devastating tornado that rips and smashes through it one dark August day.

SHERIFF ZANDRA SEAGRAVES already faced an uphill battle. Elected by a fluke, Red Springs’ first-ever black, female sheriff leads the recovery efforts, despite knowing how much the townspeople–and her own department–loathe her. But Zandra has no idea just how hellish things are about to get.

Because one of the relief workers stumbles across a ghastly secret: the tornado tore a long-abandoned house off its foundations, revealing a grisly, recently-used torture dungeon below it.

A monster has been dwelling in Red Springs. Undetected for years. Preying on the unsuspecting populace. His atrocities only brought to light because of the storm.

Now, amid the tornado’s wreckage and surrounded by people who want her gone, Zandra has to hunt this monster down before he disappears again.

And to do it, she’ll have to peel back all of Red Springs’ dark, corrupted layers. One vile secret at a time.

Author Links:

Twitter: @_DanJolley

Website:  www.danjolley.com

Guest Post: What it Takes to Write a Book by Dan Jolley

There’s a series of blog posts on my website, danjolley.com, called “How to Write the Way I Write,” which goes into the nuts and bolts of how I put a comic book script together.

I didn’t want to call it something like “How to Write Comic Books,” or “The Right Way to Write Comic Books,” because the path every writer takes from beginning to end of a project can be wildly different. I explain the way to write a script that’s worked very well for me, but I don’t have the necessary hubris to think my way has to be The Best Way™, and I don’t want to fall into the trap that so often afflicts creative writing teachers — which is that they tell you how to write the way they would write, if they wrote.

So. In this post, I’m going to talk about what it takes for *me* to write a book. If you find something useful in here, fantastic. If you reject everything I say and do it your own way, fantastic. You do you.

To boil it all down, the way I get a book written is to walk a fine line between personal leniency and personal discipline. Let’s get into the discipline first.

Every so often, a complete, finished idea falls out of the heavens and into my head and lives there until I’ve banged it all down on paper. I wish that happened a lot more often than it does. Usually, I get a scrap of an idea, a hint of a thought of something that might become a compelling character or an engaging story, and I need to develop it before I can do anything else with it. To facilitate that, I use the twelve steps of the Writer’s Journey, as outlined in the book, The Writer’s Journey, by Christopher Vogler. I’m not going to put those steps down here, in part because I think that might constitute a wee bit of copyright violation, but mainly because I want you to go buy a copy of the book. It’s immensely valuable.

Vogler took Joseph Campbell’s work in outlining the classical Hero’s Journey and refined it specifically for writers. The twelve steps are, essentially, common elements found in 99% of stories from every time period, in every culture, all over the planet. They’re common threads, common ideas that go into the makeup of every kind of story, whether it’s a far-flung sci-fi space opera or a quiet, personal story about a lonely widower learning to love again. The twelve steps just fit.

Now, this is not to say that they have to be adhered to slavishly. You can play around with them. Maybe you don’t have to hit every single one. Maybe you want to present them in a different order. Whatever. They’re a guideline, and it’s a guideline I use when I need to flesh out my puny scrap of an idea into something that can run for a hundred thousand words.

Once I have those twelve steps mapped out, I do a chapter-by-chapter outline. This usually looks like one or maybe two chunky paragraphs for each chapter in the novel. It doesn’t have to be super-polished; half the time, I’m the only one who’s going to see this thing. (You might need to spruce the outline up a bit, though, if you’re giving it to a publisher as part of a deal.)

When the outline’s finished, I set myself a realistic deadline (or, if I’ve already signed a deal to write this book, I make note of the deadline set by the publisher), and I figure out how many days I have to get all the chapters written, leaving myself time for a revise or two before it gets sent in. I can usually do a reasonable-sized chapter in a day, but it’s better if I leave two days, and I try really hard to keep weekends free. I’ve found through painful experience that it’s better for my mental health that way.

So you start writing. And that’s when the discipline has to kick in HARD. A friend of mine, comic book, and novel cover artist extraordinaire John Nadeau, once commented that “making comics equals ass in the chair.” He was right. You have to get the chapters done. Maybe it’s a pretty day and you’d rather take a walk. Maybe an awesome new video game just came out and you’d rather play it. Maybe your significant other got the day off work and you’d rather spend time with them.

Well, depending on where you are in relation to your deadline, that might just be too bad. You want to get your book finished? Then you have to FINISH YOUR BOOK. It can be exhausting. It can make you feel like you’re going a little crazy. It can make your family and friends irritated at you.

But here’s the thing: you’ll get better at it. Writing consistently is a lot like lifting weights. The more you do it, the more you’ll be able to do it.

Plus, you can train yourself to be creative on demand, like one of Pavlov’s dogs. The way you do that is that you establish certain conditions, or perform a certain ritual, every time you write. Maybe you wear a particular hat. Maybe you sit in a specific chair. Maybe you do twenty jumping-jacks beforehand, it doesn’t matter, as long as you do that one thing every time you write. Because if you do that, eventually your brain connects that ritual or those circumstances with the act of writing. And then, even if you don’t feel like getting your chapter done one day, you put on your writing hat and sit in your writing chair and your brain lights up and says, “Oh! Hey! It’s time to write!” And you’re off to the races.

All of this leads to my CARDINAL RULE #1 about getting a book written. This is super-discipline-oriented, and you just have to grit your teeth and do it. The rule is this:

Do not read what you have written until you’re done with the whole thing.

Do not go back and read the chapter you’ve just finished. Or the page. Or the paragraph. Don’t look at it. Scroll up. Put that sheet of paper away. Try to forget about it if you can. Because the creative part of the brain is different from the editing part, and you need to open the throttle on the creative part and just let it run wide-freaking-open until the work is finished. If you don’t, you run the very real risk of getting stuck in an “editing loop.” You think, “Oh, I can make that scene stronger,” or “Oh, I can make that line wittier,” or “Oh, I can find a better adjective,” and in your efforts to improve what you’ve done, you never get past that to the next page. You just keep going back, and going back, and going back, and the whole thing peters out and turns to dog poop.

You’d much rather have a finished manuscript than dog poop.

Now! On to the personal leniency part!

While you’re writing your outline if you find that your story is deviating from your twelve-step chart? It’s fine. If you like the new direction better, go with it. You’re not locked in.

Then, when you’re working from your outline and writing your chapters if you find that your manuscript is deviating from the outline you worked so hard on? It’s okay. Run with it. No one’s going to penalize you if, in the middle of a chapter, you suddenly realize a character is gay, or that a pivotal scene needs to take place in a parking lot instead of on a roof, or that someone’s mother is actually not dead.

I’m not saying throw your whole outline out the window. You still need the discipline to follow through with it. I’m saying you don’t have to be a stickler for all the details.

An outline is a bit like a road map, and the writing of the manuscript is you, in a car, taking a pre-planned, charted-out road trip. Yes, you’re using that map, and yes, you’ve got some great destinations and tourist attractions marked down that you know you want to visit. But if, along the way, you see a sign advertising “World’s Best Peanut Butter Milkshakes,” and you decide, “Hey, I would like a peanut butter milkshake,” and you veer off the road and get yourself a tasty frozen dessert? Great! Do it! Maybe while you’re there, you realize one of your characters has a ferocious peanut allergy. Maybe the person behind the counter turns out to have some information that’s valuable to you. Maybe you get a flat tire, and the sympathetic motorist who stops to offer help becomes someone important.

Let yourself explore. Just don’t forget where you’re going.

Okay, so, you’ve maintained your discipline, you’ve done a few side-quests along the way, and you’ve reached your destination. If you’re like me, you grow more and more excited the closer to the end you get, so that by the last few pages you’re hammering your fingers on the keyboard, and suddenly BANG! YOU’RE DONE!

You’re done with the first draft.

You may be in a sort of daze. You may sit there, staring at the screen, thinking, “What did I just write?” You may not remember half of what went into those chapters that you so studiously did not go back and look at. And now, when you flip to Page 1 and read everything again, you may discover that a lot of it verges on nonsensical gibberish.

Which brings us to CARDINAL RULE #2:

It’s okay to write a crap-tastic first draft.

Seriously. It’s fine. More than fine, it’s expected. Almost everyone’s first drafts are just freaking awful. My first drafts might be fit for lining birdcages if I’m feeling generous.

You know why it’s okay? Because now you’ve made The Great Switch. You’ve shifted gears from Creative to Editorial. Now you can go back and FIX IT ALL.

The task may look daunting at first, but don’t sweat it. Just take it one chapter at a time. You’ll probably find that there’s a lot more good stuff in there than bad, and you can either fix the bad stuff or just chuck it. That’s actually one of my favorite ways to edit a bad passage: highlight that whole stinky chunk and hit DELETE.

You can fix it. You can fix it all. Because now, after all those days and weeks and months of disciplined creativity, suddenly you’ve got a big-ass manuscript sitting there. The book exists! It’s real! Hot damn, YOU JUST WROTE A BOOK! And now you can dig into the bad parts and edit them until they’re the way you want them.

But you cannot, under any circumstances, ever, fix a blank page.

And that’s my secret. That’s what it takes for me to write a book.

Make sure my pages aren’t blank.


Tour Schedule and Activities

2/18    Jazzy Book Reviews    https://bookreviewsbyjasmine.blogspot. com/      

2/19    I Smell Sheep  http://www.ismellsheep.com/        

2/20    Breakeven Books       https://breakevenbooks.com   

2/21    Sheila’s Guests and Reviews http://sheiladeeth.blogspot.com  

2/22    Jordan Hirsch http://jordanrhirsch.wordpress.com 

2/23    Sapphyria’s Books     https://saphsbooks.blogspot.com/ 

2/23    The Book Lover’s Boudoir     https://thebookloversboudoir.wordpres s.com/     

2/24    Horror Tree    https://www.horrortree.com   

2/24    Willow’s Thoughts and Book Obsessions     http://wssthoughtsandbookobse ssions.blogspot.com/      

2/25    The Voluptuous Book Diva    http://www.thevoluptuousbookdiva.com


Amazon Links for The Storm

Print Version: https://www.amazon.com/Storm-Dan- Jolley/dp/1948042665/

Kindle Version: https://www.amazon.com/Storm-Dan-Jolley- ebook/dp/B07LC78379/

Barnes and Noble Link for The Storm: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-storm- dan-jolley/1130007043?ean=9781948042666

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