Story engineering.

In an effort to keep my multitude of fascinated readers [*insert eyeroll*] up to date, I figured it would be fun to include more entries on the process of my writing and research, rather than just the sparse announcements that mark the completion of a piece. So buckle up, and prepare to enter the exciting and fun-filled world of Mike’s Fiction Adventure (trademark pending).

I spend ALOT of time reading – about writing.  Most of the material that I immerse myself in are blogs by various authors, some traditionally published and some self-published. A quick digression here. For those that are unaware, allow me to fill you in on the differences between traditional publishing and self-publishing, even though they are probably obvious simply by the interpretation of the words themselves.

Traditional publishing is the process by which an author lands on the bookshelf at Barnes and Noble (or others). It requires that one’s work be purchased (or “picked up,” to use industry slang) by a publishing house, big or small. The larger guys are harder to crack into, obviously. Most authors who seek the traditional publishing route often look for a literary agent first. This is a person who also has to see value in you and/or your book before they take you on as a client. Any legitimate agent worth their keep is very selective on who they work with and what authors they want to represent. If you are a first-timer, like myself, this typically requires one to endure months or even years of submissions, unbearably waiting for responses that do not come quick, and lots of self-loathing. If you’re lucky enough to land a decent agent, their job is to “pitch” your book to the publishing houses and hope that they can get it sold and get you both paid. This – is very difficult to achieve.

Enter self-publishing [*insert heavenly choir interlude*]. The internet has revolutionized, among many other things, the publishing industry. Any Joe Schmo that decides to write a book, can have that book up on Amazon as an e-book in literary minutes, with no upfront cost to the author. Similarly, one can use a print-on-demand (POD) service that will make your book available in print via Amazon or other online retailers, again, at no upfront cost. If your work is any good, with an eye-catching book cover, you could actually sell a few copies. If you’re really good, you can sell more than a few. If you’re REALLY good, and you know how to market yourself and your book using the wondrous world wide web, you can actually make a decent income.

That was supposed to be a quick digression – I get carried away sometimes.

With that said, the bulk of my reading (on writing) is on blogs from very successful self-published authors. Most recently, I’ve spent a lot of time pouring through the blogs of Hugh Howey ( and Joanna Penn ( Hugh Howey is – to put it lightly – my hero in the world of self-pub. Not only is he a marvelous author, but he is one of the most successful self-pub authors of all time. I won’t beleaguer you with the infinite list of his accomplishments. Just go look him up if you’re interested. Quick fun fact: Hugh is the cousin of my coworkers wife Dana, and lived in Boone for many years, until he got rich and decided to spend his life sailing around the world on his catamaran. Small world, huh.

The other major piece to my research has been a How-To book that I picked up, after being highly recommended by Hugh and many others. It’s called Story Engineering, by Larry Brooks, and is all about mastering what Brooks calls “The Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing.” The title alone was enough to sell me. It’s got Engineering in the title, I’m an engineer. Sold.

This book, while I’m only a few chapters in, is getting me super pumped about improving my craft. It’s the perfect book for the methodical mind like me. It breaks the key elements of fiction writing down into a very clear cut and easy to follow formula that can be applied to any idea and any length of fiction, from a novel all the way down to a short story. For a person like me, this is the jackpot. It’s like a paint-by-numbers for writing fiction. God, I loved those as a kid.

Before I get too winded here, I’ll wrap it up.

A quick update: My last post indicated that I wanted to start focusing more on short fiction and build my way up to something novel-length. Using that mindset, I’ve managed to bloom an idea for what I think will be a very interesting short story. My goal here is to use the principles that I’m learning from Howey, Penn, Brooks and others and craft an awesome short story using the new approach and see how that goes. I have a lot of confidence that this is the “write” path for me [*snicker*] and I look forward to sharing it with all of you hopefully soon.

Thanks for reading.

Humble beginnings.

Let me start by saying ‘Thank You!’ to all of the people (probably few) that took the time to read my first two installments of The Architects, which I released here on the blog over the past four-five months.

I’ve come to a few realizations, and learned a few hard lessons since the start.

First and foremost, finding the time to write is next to impossible for me. Juggling a full time engineering career, being in a metal band, devoting time to a daily workout (shocking, I know), and spending time with friends here and there, it leaves precious little time to sit down and crank out the next bit or blurb on whatever I’m writing.  While this is not the worst predicament in the world to have – as I finally feel like I have a sense of balance in my life for the first time in awhile – it makes the prospect of writing a 100,000-word manuscript (be it solid gold, or a hunk of crap) an overwhelming feat that will most likely not materialize.

Secondly, I found that every time I would sit down to write (few and far between as it were), I would be substantially more pleased with the scene I just wrote, and perceive my earlier bits as worthless drivel. I was constantly wanting to go back and revise or rewrite scenes that I had done earlier because I felt like my skills were growing with each sitting. And satisfying this impulse would be a definite nail in the Architects coffin, the damn thing would NEVER get finished.

Thirdly, and perhaps the biggest light bulb moment – The story itself was entirely too ambitious for my first journey into the treacherous waters of authorship. While I was super stoked on the narrative that I had spent months outlining, the characters I had loosely crafted, the interwoven plot lines, and the imagery that was dying to spill out on paper – it was a HUGE undertaking. Far too much for my feeble little mind, with virtually zero experience in the craft of actually writing the story that was in my head.

So, what the hell does all of this mean?

As the title of this blog post implies, I’m going to take a step back and focus on something that can lay a nice solid foundation for me to build upon. A more humble beginning.

More specifically, I need to hone my skills on a format that is far less daunting than a novel. I need to build confidence in my writing ability while not feeling compelled to make everything perfect for the sake of “writing the perfect novel.”

I have always been a very systematic type of person. Structured. Methodical. A bit anal. Okay, alot anal.  And it seems that if I follow my own logic and approach this hobby (and perhaps a future means of income) as a more graduated approach, I’ll be far more likely to see it through and ultimately succeed.

Translation – I want to focus on shorter fiction for now. Short stories, novelettes, and novellas. Basically, anything less than 40,000 words.

Not only will this be far more manageable for me, I will be more comfortable. And I will actually have a finished piece of work, be it excellent or terrible – it will be finished nonetheless. And I can move on to the next piece, which will hopefully be better than the last.

So that’s my plan. Write something new, Release it, Repeat.

And maybe one day in the future, The Architects will be resurrected to fulfill it’s rightful place among the greatest literary masterpieces of all time. Okay, probably highly unlikely. But I can dare to dream.

Thanks for reading.



Better late than never.

Needless to say, I did not expect that it would take nearly four months to complete the next chapter of the story – so thank you for your patience! It’s definitely been difficult trying to find time to sit down and write, but I managed to knock it out bit by bit when I could.

I’ve literally spent the entirety of today engulfed in writing, so I’m a bit short on commentary at the moment – my brain needs some rest. But here she is, the next installment of my debut Sci-Fi novel.


The Architects, Chapter 2

One small step for man.

The inaugural post!  For those that may not know what this is all about, allow me to recap:

About six months ago, I started toying with the idea of writing a novel (cringe), and had the smallest, teeniest little nugget of an idea for a story.  It was safe to say that if I wanted to actually turn this shred of a thought into the next 100,000-word New York Times bestseller (snicker), then I had a lot of work to do.

Knowing virtually nothing about novel writing, or even storytelling, I felt completely overwhelmed with this far-fetched goal of mine.  So I did what any millennial would do: I googled.

You’d be surprised (or not) just how many resources are on the interwebs for budding novelists like myself. A quick search of “How to write a novel” resulted in a biblical flood of information, some of it useless crap, but much of it was sound advice from viable sources.  I’ll spare you the boring details of what I came across, but I will say that I had more than enough information to get the ball rolling.

And so, with the help of my OCD-laden brain, this whisper of an idea began to take shape, in the form of a detailed chapter outline that my 7th grade English teacher would be (I hope) immensely proud of.  As I went through this process of outlining, which was NOT quick by the way, the story literally built itself as I wrote.  I had no idea what I was doing, really, I just chugged onward through each chapter of bullet points until I was sick of it. The result, quite honestly, had me surprised. There were main characters, secondary characters, interwoven plot lines, hooks, suspense, cliff-hangers, you name it!  I couldn’t believe that I actually had a story that I was excited about writing. The feeling was, well, pretty cool.

So, that was a fairly intimidating process in and of itself, but now I actually had to write actual words. You know, like real chapters (Eek!).

More googling, more reading, plenty of self-doubt, and many rough attempts at kicking off this grand epic filled the days thereafter.  When it came down to it, I had to just sit down and do it, dammit.

Low and behold, after several weeks of trial and error, MANY revisions, and that nagging voice inside my head that told me to just quit nit-picking the damn thing, I finally had a decent first chapter that I was proud of.

Which brings me to this blog post. Hopefully, the first of many. I am (reluctantly) releasing the first chapter onto this blog for the world to see….and I’m terrified!

For those that choose to read onward (using the link below, or menu above), I only ask one thing. Be brutally honest! I’m serious, I need feedback to help me grow as a writer and to help this story become the best that it can be.

So without further ado, I present to the world, the first chapter of my debut science fiction novel, The Architects.