Life, since the Hotel, came in heartbeats.
Welcome to the August 18th stop on the blog tour for The Hotel series by Michael James with Goddess Fish Promotions. Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for spotlights, reviews, author guest posts & interviews, and a giveaway! More on that at the end of this post.
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Author Guest Post
7 things about writing a book every author should know.
Writing a novel is hard. That’s what I learned. The end.
Thanks for reading, everyone!
Okay I may have figured out a few other things. It’s a laborious and thankless job with a remote probability of success. Still, it’s better than the alternative, which is not writing a book. I’ve learned a lot since my first book, and I just released my fourth – The Well at the Bottom of Everything, the sequel to The Hotel at the End of Time.
Here’s some of the things I learned when writing my first book.
1. It’s okay to be terrible.
I put this first because it was the hardest lesson to learn and slowed me down the most. The first draft does not need to be perfect. For my first two months of writing, I was unable to move past a chapter unless it was “publishable”. It was an absurd waste of mental energy and it nearly stopped the whole process. I would rewrite the same first two chapters over and over and ignore the process of actually writing a book. I had to learn just to get stuff down on the page so I could get going. It sucked, but I finally got there.
This was probably the hardest thing to learn, but once I got comfortable with “failing quickly”, I was able to move past the mental block and finish.
2. There’s a difference between a bad chapter and a wrong chapter.
In the early days, this was another one that derailed me. Bad chapters are completely fine – they might be poorly written, they might be clumsy, they might have a mess of grammatical errors, but they’re “right” chapters, in the sense that the characters act like characters, the plot moves along and so on. It fits in the book.
“Wrong” chapters might be beautifully written, have luxurious prose and have all the right beats, but if it’s not the right chapter for the book, it sits there like a rock in the road.
An example from my early days: I was trying to write a chapter about a character getting from point A to point B. I wrote it three different ways and none of them felt right. The chapter was written okay… but I couldn’t get past it. It was like a splinter. Even though I had learned lesson 1, this was stopping me. Finally, I figured out it wasn’t the writing, it was the chapter. It was wrong. It wasn’t needed for the book. Once the chapter was gone, the rock removed, I was able to keep going. I had two “wrong” chapters in my book, and I’ve learned how to spot them quickly.
3. Stephen King is a liar.
Like everyone, I read “On Writing” by Stephen King. Like everyone else, I fixated on this one piece of advice: “The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.” E.g. you should write 1,000 words a day.
Guess what? That advice is great if you’re a writing savant like Stephen King. For the rest of us, we write at our own pace, appropriate to us. Maybe we have jobs, or kids, or other responsibilities. Some nights we come home and we’re tired. Fine. It’s not about cranking out 1,000 words a day, it’s about setting goals and hitting them. You need to set a goal that works for you, not a goal that works for Stephen King. I settled on 15,000 words a month. Not as fast as I’d like, but it was the target that worked for me and my life.
4. There’s a difference between productive self-criticism and self-doubt
A writer needs to be their own worst critic. You’re the first one who sees what you write, and only you can stop the garbage from making it onto the page. But, there is a huge difference between being ruthlessly critical of your own work, with the goal of making it better (productive) vs. telling yourself you’re a horrible monster for even trying to write and everyone hates you (counter-productive).
I learned to be all about productive self-criticism. Is that sentence really needed? What would happen if I removed this character altogether? Can I say this whole chapter in 3 sentences? All great, productive questions.
Am I the worst thing ever? What if I never succeed? What if everyone laughs at me? What if I show this to people and they throw mud and eggs at me – even if they’re nowhere near a mud pit filled with eggs, almost as if they were carrying around sacks of mud and eggs just for this occasion? What then????
None of this is productive. Sadly, it’s natural, and I feel like everyone goes through it, but one version helps, one hinders.
5. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.
About halfway through by book I hit the wall of “what’s the point”? Seriously, why bother with any of this? Even if I finish, my chances of getting published are infinitesimal. Even if I get published, my chances of being a best seller are non-existent. Even if I become a best-seller, the chances of having my book turned into a movie are non-existent. And so on.
So mostly, I’m writing and it’s pointless and it’s fine. I either like it or I don’t, and about halfway through I found out I like it. I like it, and that’s enough. I’ll finish this book and I’ll do another and another and maybe nothing will ever come of it. You know what else I do? I play piano and guitar because I enjoy it, but I’m never going to be a rock star. I go running because I enjoy it, but I’m never going to win a marathon.
The point is, I learned to enjoy writing for the act itself.
6. You don’t need an outline. Or you do.
This might be controversial, but I wrote the whole book without an outline. It wasn’t for lack of trying. I made many attempts, but the part of my brain that I use for writing seems to be inaccessible when I’m trying to outline. So what did this mean? It means I have to write 10,000 words for every 5,000 that make it on the page. It means I wrote the first third of my novel, realized I had written myself into a number of insurmountable plot holes and had to go back and re-write a solid chunk of the book. It means I sometimes surprised myself and my characters went in directions I didn’t plan.
I always had the opening scene, the middle scene and the end scene plotted, so I had some rough signposts to guide me along the way, but I never knew how I was going to get there.
The point is, everyone tells you that you have to have an outline and… no, you don’t. It’s just a different writing style. Everyone is going to write differently, and I needed to write the way that worked for me.
7. There are thousands of great resources for new writers.
There are million out there, and I didn’t look at a fraction of them, but here are a few I found particularity helpful:
- This book on How not to write a novel: Personally, I learn better when people tell me what not to do vs. tell me what more to to.
- This fantastic blog that should be considered mandatory reading for everyone who wants to be an author. This links to a great post on common beginner mistakes. I checked my writing against every item on that list. About a third of the way in, I found I had done mistake number 17 (my character had no purpose). I felt sick. It required me to rewrite a large chunk of my first few chapters to give my character agency (up until this, the story had been happening to her, she hadn’t been happening to the story).
- I read other books that I aspired to be like. My favorite book from the last few years was “The Library and Mount Char” by Scott Hawkins. I went back and read that with a critical eye to try to figure out why I loved the book so much. I started doing this with every book I read. I’d read a chapter and totally forget that I was reading. Then I’d go back and try to figure out how the author did it.
Hopefully some of these help any writers out there who are just starting out.
About the Books
No one has ever escaped from the Hotel at the End of Time. Until now.
Vain only wants to be left alone, but the Hotel has other plans. Forces will align against her: a group of multi-dimensional felons collectively named The Wyatts; and their leader, Trick, a mild-to-medium psychopath with a fondness for impractical jokes.
The only way forward is to go back. Back to the one place in the world she swore she’d never return.
Back to the Hotel.
The Hotel at the End of Time
The Hotel Book One
by Michael James
Published 4 February 2021
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Page Count: 236
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!
Vain is the only person to ever escape from the Hotel at the end of time. On her way out, she took their prized possession: A Padlock that grants immortality.
They will do anything to get it back.
The forces of the Hotel are aligned against her: mundane items turned into weapons; a group of multi-dimensional felons collectively named The Wyatts; and their leader, Trick, a mild-to-medium psychopath with a fondness for impractical jokes.
Everything changes when Vain meets Emma, a timid grad student with impossible and terrifying powers. Together, they are propelled into an adventure that will see them battle the Wyatts, blow up several objects of significant value, and quite by accident, discover a way to stop the Hotel.
Even with Emma, Vain has a lot of problems to deal with.
She’s exhausted from being hunted.
Stopping the Hotel might kill them.
She has a hangnail.
But Vain is resourceful. Vain is clever.
And she always has a plan.
The woman glanced over. “I’m Emma, by the way. Thank you for helping me.”
Emma blinked and positioned the rear-view mirror so it showed Vain her reflection. “Is that better?”
Vain shook her head. “My name. My actual name is Vain.”
“Are you, like, a street artist?”
Vain sighed. “I’m just me.”
“How did you know who those men were? How did you know they were after me?”
“They’re not men,” replied Vain. “They’re things. Their name is Wyatt. Their only job is to find people like you and take them back to a place called the Hotel. It’s a place I escaped from.”
“How are they all called Wyatt? Why do they look the same?”
“They’re from alternate Earths.” Vain waved her hand, shooing away the explanation.
“I don’t believe you,” Emma said. “I’m sorry. I know I’m supposed to humor crazy, but I’m exhausted. Please tell me the truth.” “How about this? You go first. Explain how you threw a person with your mind in a way that doesn’t violate a couple dozen natural laws, and once you’re done, I’ll come up with a better explanation for duplicate psychopaths from various incarnations of Earth.”
The Well at the Bottom of Everything
The Hotel Book Two
by Michael James
Published 3 August 2021
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Page Count: 252
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!
Vain thought destroying the Portal to the Hotel at the End of Time would mean freedom for her and Roman, but her happy ever after is coming to an end.
A horrible mistake and a stray bullet force her to infiltrate the Hotel and contend with a new and terrible power: The Well at the Bottom of Everything.
Friendships will be tested. Loyalties will be broken.
The Hotel will have its revenge.
“Can I help you?” The perky girl behind the counter smiled like she enjoyed her job. Vain was immediately suspicious.
“Two coffees, please.”
“Sure, what size? We have mediu, moyen and mittel.”
“Are those real words?”
Vain waited for a further explanation. Sweat pooled in her lower back. The man behind her coughed, and she nearly jumped. The perky girl offered no further details, but smiled more aggressively. Vain examined the menu for clues with growing distress.
“I don’t know. The third one. Mitten. Two mitten coffees, I guess. Oh and Mark said he wants an everything bagel, but I’m not sure if he meant he wants all the bagels or if he wants everything on the bagel.”
“One everything bagel and two mittel coffees. No problem. How do you take them?”
Vain wiped her forehead. A car started outside the shop and she bit her cheek. “In my hands, please. That’s fine. Hurry.”
“Cream or sugar?”
“Yes, okay. Give me two mitten coffees with cream and sugar and all the bagels in my hands. Here is some money. I’ll be on the couch.”
About the Author
Michael James spent his formative years writing, and when he wasn’t writing, he was writing. A mistaken belief that a “real” job would be more satisfying led him down a dark path that did not involve writing but did involve meetings. Fortunately, he has since course-corrected and is back on the right (write? Ha!) path. The Hotel at the End of Time is not his first book, but it is the one with the most Hotels in it.
He lives in Canada with his family. When he’s not writing, he does Canadian things – saying sorry a lot, being polite, talking about the weather, you know how it goes.
Michael James will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.a Rafflecopter giveaway
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