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Decimation Log # 3 - Post Release

A big goal of mine was to release two books in the same year. I'm happy to report that this month, it became a reality. Ruination came out in March 2022 and Decimation on November 16, 2022. For full-time authors, releasing two novels in the same year might not be a big deal, but these days, I'm writing in my spare time while I work a full-time job.

Yeah, writing doesn't pay the bills for me. Every novel's "profits" have been in the red, and by a wide margin I might add. Most self-published authors know what I'm talking about. For every method of self-publishing, I'd estimate that there are a thousand different "services" you can/need to pay for. If you want a book that looks and feels professional, you are spending over $1,000. The majority of authors don't see a return on this investment. Their books go unnoticed or the brief spike in sales doesn't last.

So, is there any hope for me? I think so, yes. But there is more grinding to do. Back in 2021, when I finished A Gathering of Strangers, I decided to take a break from fantasy. The reasons were threefold: Working on a thriller would help refresh me on ideas for future Dark Savior Series books, the novels could be shorter and I could therefore have more content for readers over a shorter period, and by starting a new series, I could get new readers and obtain new perspectives/reviews from them.

As it turned out, new readers were exactly what I needed to take my writing to the next level. If you've followed these blog posts over the years, you'll recall how much I've discussed the improvements in my writing. But with Ruination, I took the greatest leap yet, and it was thanks to my beta readers. It had been pointed out to me in the past, albeit sparingly, that my narrative style could get confusing. I chalked it up to a style preference mixed with there being upwards of a dozen characters to follow by the time I had written A Gathering of Strangers, but it turned out that I was wrong.

I won't go too far into the details, but I was committing two great writing sins in my first three books:

  1. Head Hopping. This is when the narrator switches character perspectives without a line break. It can become confusing for the reader, and so only a few notable authors, like Frank Herbert in Dune, have dared to break this unwritten rule. In Dune's case, head-hopping is used to effectively inform the reader of all of the character's thoughts. It's a great method of world-building if you know what you're doing. However, in the Dark Savior Series, the narrator is selective about whose thoughts are conveyed to the reader. So, there is no reason for me to be head-hopping.

  2. Inelegant Variation. This is an offshoot of elegant variation, which are attempts by a writer to add variety to their work, usually by using synonyms of commonly recurring words. For example, instead of, constantly using the word "jumped" in a paragraph, "leaped" or "hopped" could be used. Inelegant variation, however, is when this becomes unnecessary. In my first three novels, I would come up with descriptors or nicknames for characters when describing them after a quote. To mix things up from "Joel said," I would instead write, "The mute said." I would sometimes even have multiple nicknames for characters, and to make matters worse, I would even replace "said" with other words like "exclaimed", "proclaimed" etc. Things that felt unnatural. All of this is obsolete in the face of merely writing, "He said."

The bottom line is that in my first three books, the above issues made the narration difficult to follow. I believe that the Dark Savior Series books 1-3 are good stories trapped behind poor narration.

For that reason, the plan moving forward is to rewrite Gold Fever. I had been hesitant about it in the past, but the reality is that I don't have a consistent following with the Dark Savior Series. If I want people to read nine whole books of this series, the first three novels need to be up to standard. The plan is for the story to remain the same, with descriptions and clearer perspectives being the main differences. I'm already nine chapters in, and while sometimes it can feel like difficult work, I am noticing a great difference in the story's clarity.

I'm also confident that Ruination and Decimation can gain a following with enough advertisement put into them. What worries me, though, is if people enjoy these novels and go looking for more, they'll stumble on Gold Fever and read my most amateurish work. I can't go back and rewrite everything forever, or I'll never get anything new done, so I'm considering this my only shot.

After Gold Fever is rewritten and released to the public, I plan on doing the same for Seven Seals and A Gathering of Strangers. Then, I can finally get to my true goal: Advertising both Gold Fever and Ruination on Facebook and Amazon. During that time, I will begin work on Confrontation, the finale of the Ruined Trilogy. And then finally, I will get back to writing new Dark Savior Series novels. The goal is to accomplish all of this in 2023 and start making a profit.

I'll write another post in the future that'll detail the rewriting process. Maybe I can provide some samples of how the narration will differ, but the story will remain the same.

Hm... I haven't been talking much about Decimation, have I? :D Well, as I've mentioned before, discussing the story for this novel is difficult. It gives away the mystery of Ruination. So, I'll try to be as general as possible.

I'm happy with how Decimation turned out. The first third or so of the book turned into a satire of corporate and internet culture. The last two-thirds of the story settle into thriller/suspense territory. It ended up being much longer than I had wanted at over 150,000 words, but I couldn't bring myself to cut the earlier portions that really help to hammer home the flawed characters that Decimation follows.

I think that once again, my beta readers made a world of difference. In this case, the main character of the novel, Jo, is meant to go through some big changes throughout the story, but sometimes I would be inconsistent about it. She'd resort to her old habits for no apparent reason. Or sometimes, given the satirical nature of act one, she'd cross the line of a likable hero and act a little too villainous.

That, and inconsistencies in the plot (A very common problem when trying to write a thriller that feels like it could happen in real life), were issues that I had to fix. I feel that the problems were appropriately addressed, and unlike Ruination, the ending is definitive. Aside from some questions left over from the previous story (Which WILL be answered in Confrontation), readers should only be wondering what's coming next.

From here, I'll continue work on the Gold Fever rewrite and make a blog about halfway through that, or at the beginning of the new year to discuss my 2022 goals, whichever comes sooner. It's been a difficult journey, these past few years, but I've put the work in, and it's paying off in my writing. 2023? That's my year. I can feel it. These past two books, and the rewrites... they will change everything. The world (That includes you, too!) just doesn't know it yet.

- Jim

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