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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Guest Post | Bradley P. Beaulieu Says "Lose Yourself" Quoting Eminem?

I tried to read Winds of Khalakovo three times before it finally hooked me. I figure that was for two reasons. One, I tried reading the trade paperback first, and that damn thing was more akin to Clue murder weapon than novel. Being a big "in bed" reader, it wasn't easy to hold up. Once I made the switch to the electronic version, I was able to really tuck into it. Second, Beaulieu doesn't take a lot of time to ease the reader into things, jumping quickly into the main narrative.

All that goes to say that Winds takes some investment, both of time and mental capacity. It's an investment well worth making. In my review I called it the merging of Russian literary tradition with the epic fantasy, making it unique in a field often characterized by its sameness.

Coasting in on a airship of his own making, Bradley P. Beaulieu...

***

By the time the first book in my series, The Winds of Khalakovo, came out in April of 2011, I was already well on the way to finishing the first draft of The Straits of Galahesh. I didn't yet have the fear in me that I do now. Fear, you say? Yes, the fear that your book is out of your control when it hits the streets. (Actually, it's out of your control a good bit before that, but that's a story for another post.) I was writing as if I were an unpublished writer. Sure, I was mindful about my deadlines, but I'd already developed a steady writing rhythm. I'd planned out the writing of the book almost down to the day, so I wasn't worried about that.

Everything changed, however, as my new reality sunk in and I realized just how much control I was giving up. Not only could I not change Book 1 at all, the very fact that Book 1 was locked down meant my options with respect to Book 2 were now more limited. I could no longer go back and tweak or adjust for some new idea I'd come up with. Book 1 had suddenly become backstory, and that changed the way I wrote. I was much more careful (or tried to be) about teasing out the story threads from Book 1 and into Book 2, and also about looking ahead to set up Book 3 over the course of Book 2.

This is not to say I wasn't mindful of these things while I was writing Winds. I was. I had a general idea of how the arc of the three novels were going to progress. But no writer can see so far ahead—this writer can't, in any case—and suddenly I was becoming nervous over the steps I was taking. I was worried that I wasn't aligning all three books up properly. The whole process started to feel like rickety scaffolding stacked three stories high, when what I really wanted was a tower of solid stone.

There's another interesting facet of this problem I came across. Or an intensification, if you will. Book 2 of a trilogy (clearly) is not the end. There's still room to maneuver the story once that book is written, because the overall arc hasn't yet been completed. Now that I'm well into the third book, The Flames of Shadam Khoreh, I'm seeing another, similar tightening of options. Book 3 is final. It's absolute. You have to pull everything together to make the entire story one, cohesive whole. The pressure has ramped up even higher, and I find myself nail-biting as I prepare to turn in the manuscript to my editor and alpha readers. It's not to the point that I'm petrified. I don't have writers block. But I find myself worried that any change I make to the story is going to screw everything up.

This isn't true, of course. The only way I can really screw up is by not being honest about what the story needs. And I have to remember that most writers feel this way at one time or another, and that the way to solve the problem is not by freaking out, but by finding my center—or, more accurately, finding the center of this story, the heart of it, the place that made me want to write it in the first place. And that, frankly, is the key to any book, be it a standalone or the tenth in a series. You must immerse yourself not in thewriting but in the story, because it's there that the very best writing comes out.

If there's any lesson to be learned here, I think it's this: all sorts of pressures arise over the course of your writing career—some expected, some unexpected--—and they all present their own unique challenges. The most important thing is to remember that writing is art. You're writing something only you can write, and that's a gift. Treasure that and surround yourself with your tale. Lose yourself in it so that the story—the most important part of your writing career by far—gets the focus and attention it deserves.

***

You can find Bradley P. Beaulieu on the web and Twitter. Be sure to visit the former to learn more about The Lays of Anuskaya series. By day Beaulieu is a software engineer, but by night he drinks White Russians and hums Tchaikovsky while writing. Only the first half of that is true.

Come back later today for an excerpt from The Straits of Galahesh, the second book in the Lays of Anuskaya!

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10 Comments:

At July 25, 2012 at 7:16 AM , Blogger Anne Lyle said...

Awesome post, Brad! I totally empathise with the panic over not being able to change book 1 once it went to press - I'm a discovery writer, and I hate being hemmed when I'm writing!

 
At July 25, 2012 at 7:24 AM , Anonymous Brad Beaulieu said...

Thanks, Anne. The converse of this is that I'm getting *really* excited about my next project. All these pressures will ease at that point because I'll once again be writing a Book 1. Plus, as much as I love the WINDS trilogy, as proud of it as I am, I'm ready to set that world aside and dive into another one. To learn about new characters. Try out a new magic system with actual to goodness gods. In some ways, WINDS pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I'm glad for that, but I'm raring to write something that's in my wheelhouse.

 
At July 25, 2012 at 7:25 AM , Blogger Paul Weimer said...

Thanks, Brad.

I was lucky to read the e-copy and had started it before getting a physical copy. Winds is a not-inconsiderable tome, but I found that to be a feature, not a bug.

Book one is the base of the pyramid, which limits the shape of books two and three, but also provides a foundation and a grounding for them at the same time, I think.

 
At July 25, 2012 at 8:32 AM , Anonymous Brad Beaulieu said...

Thanks, Paul. That's a good analogy, and it holds true for Book 3 as well. It will also be a bit of a circle, as well (or a torus?), as things do come 'round to the beginning as the trilogy wraps up.

 
At July 25, 2012 at 8:36 PM , Anonymous Courtney Schafer said...

So will the new project be a trilogy as well?

And oh man, Brad, I am so in awe (as always!) of your unshakable writing groove. (Anytime I tried to plan out how long the rest of my book would take me, I ended up being so, SO wrong. My son would get sick, my day job would have a fire drill, *something* would happen that would shoot down my writing time for days at a time, and then I've have to replan again, this time with more stress...ack!)

 
At July 26, 2012 at 6:07 AM , Anonymous Brad Beaulieu said...

I'm planning the new project as a five-book series. Each book will be relatively short. 110-120k. Single POV. The first book is called Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, and it's about a woman, a pit fighter, who discovers the reasons behind her mother's death may be linked to the very origin of the Twelve Kings, men who have ruled over the Great Desert for centuries. Once she's been pulled into the mystery, she can't get out, and the deeper she digs, the more it becomes clear that the way of life in the desert is about to change forever.

 
At July 26, 2012 at 6:11 AM , Blogger Paul Weimer said...

I'm in. :)

 
At July 26, 2012 at 6:12 AM , Blogger Justin said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At July 26, 2012 at 6:13 AM , Blogger Justin said...

I have the utmost confidence in its awesome.

 
At July 26, 2012 at 1:55 PM , Anonymous Brad Beaulieu said...

Thanks Paul & Justin. I hope it takes off. I'm still working through the early kinks in the story (as Justin already knows), but it's a project I'm really excited to write, partly because it's going to allow me to dig deep into a single character. I just need to make sure she's interesting enough to carry a five-book series.

 

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