Rise of the Short Novel

I am a fast writer. I can have a 100k manuscript written in 100 days, but it is, to quote Anne Lamott, ‘a shitty first draft’. I then go through a three-month editing process before seeing to my editor. She then takes two months process with a professional editor, another month or two of rewrites based on her feedback, a final round with the editor, and then a beta reader or two.

A high quality novel takes time. It takes a huge amount of effort and creativity. The process needs to be respected.

The novel now shares the shelf with the novella, the short story and flash fiction. Numerous writers have explained to me the lure and skill in writing any of these shorter forms. There is a need for succinctness in descriptions, plot, and the need to hook the reader immediately. I get it. Not my cup of tea, but I understand that there are other aspects to the craft that appeal to people.

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But there is also the Churn Mill. It is becoming common to meet writers who proudly announce they are writing a novel a month…or week, and that this is an integral part of their business model. The plan is basically to have a long backlist of books: 20, 50, 100… and hope to hook a reader to one book that will infuse them with desire to buy the other 99.

My issue is not with them having a business plan. There is no shame in writing for money. But I am uncomfortable with the way they are treating their readers. It should never be all about the numbers, not if we are considering ourselves artists, and not if ever want to betray our readers.

I wrote about how Terry Brooks appreciates his audience. I saw this week, after Daniel Arenson posted some news on his Facebook page, how he took the trouble to answer his readers’ questions and to thank them. These are authors who, I am sure, know they must bind their readers to them for business reasons, but who genuinely enjoy engaging with the people who invest money and time in their books.

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Terry Brooks

My readers know I love writing full-length novels. The first draft can be up to 120,000 words long and after my editor has worked her magic, the word count hovers just under the 100,00 word mark.

A novel allows the reader to travel to another world, to get to know characters intimately, see how they develop, and build a friendship with them. It allows the reader to escape and live for a while in a fantasy world.

There is something rich and emotionally investing in reading a full-length novel and a series. I can define periods of my life as I traveled through Shannara, Alagaesia, and Middle Earth. They are milestones that illuminate certain times.

I will forever be grateful to Christopher Paolini who wrote his Eragon books at the perfect time for me to share with my sons, a bond we will always have, and that laid the foundation for their companionship through the Wycaan Master series. Whenever we are on the road together and see a beautiful vista, one of us murmurs Alagaesia, and we all nod.

Summer 2015 Reading Book 6

Reading Book 6 in the summer of 2015. End of an era.

Enough said.

Finally, thank you to everyone who participated in the April sale. I appreciate your support and hope you will enjoy the entire series. Please: take a few minutes and leave reviews for the books you read on Amazon or Goodreads. Reviews are critical for the author and I thank you in advance for helping.

Have a good week, everyone.

Alon

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, and five other Wycaan Master books all released by Tourmaline Books. The link above takes you to the Kindle versions. For all other eReaders, please click here.

More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

 

 

Whoosh And It’s Gone!

Whoosh. It’s Gone!

The most absurd part is: I have done this several times. I have written a novel, edited it, had it professionally edited, edited what the editor edited, had it line-edited, edited what the line editor edited, gave it one more read through, and then…. Whoosh!

Yes, whoosh I say! The manuscript has gone to the formatters. I receive a confirmation that everything is okay (otherwise I bug them like crazy), and I am told by the good folks at Tourmaline Books to go prepare for the launch.

Just like that. It’s gone. Whoosh! I’m rather fond of that word, by the way. Very underrated in literature. But here I sit and stare at the screen, wondering what to do next. Do I go on vacation? Have a stiff scotch? Start writing Book 6? All of the above?

It remains, eight books later, a weird moment in time. If I were writing a spiritual Zen-like book (and I might since I watched the entire Kung Fu series with David Carradine RIP), I would talk of that odd moment of cultural void, when it is simply done. A tranquil calm descends, discovers a presence of anxiety, shrugs its shoulders and pours them both that scotch.

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So there it is. From Ashes They Rose has…well begun to rise! It has begun a transformation into its next reincarnation, from manuscript to book. I shall leave you with the blurb on the back:

Deep wounds fester in the collective psyche of a once proud nation now destroyed and humiliated. All that remains is a driving desire for revenge. It should never have happened. Retribution will know no mercy.

Book 5 Cover FINAL

Mercifully, I still owe myself that scotch. Here’s to manuscripts past, formatters present, and future books. L’chaim!

Elfwriter

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, and three more novels in the Wycaan Master Series: The First Decree, Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3, and Sacrificial Flame – all released by Tourmaline Books. From Ashes They Rose, the fifth in the series, will be released in September 2015. The story continues.

Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+

No Blog Post, But An Announcement!

No blog post this week as I have been busy incorporating the (many) suggestions of my fearless (or fearsome) editor. It never ceases to amaze me how perceptive a good editor is, how they can stay focused through 100,000 words, and be able to not only correct grammar or spelling, but follow plot arcs, different character developments, and so much more.

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Here are two great errors that I really should be too embarrassed to share, but hey, we’re all friends here, right? 

1. One of my characters was very sad and wiped the tears from her ears!

2. Seanchai (my protagonist) left his bow and quiver at the summit of a mountain, snowboarded down to join the battle, and when he entered the fray shot several of the enemy with his bow! Clever guy!

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I wrote a while ago a blog post – A Tribute To Editors ­– and I remain just as in awe today.

Along with the edited manuscript I have received a first sketch of the book cover and an ISBN number. June 12 is my fiftieth birthday – I’m negotiating the launch date for this time, but it might be too close.

It’s beginning to get real and I am so excited. As I blogged a while ago: It Never Gets Old.

Finally…(drumroll)…the title of Book 4 is official:

 Sacrificial Flame – Wycaan Master Book 4

Can’t wait to share it with you. Two months to go!

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of GalbriethThe First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+

 

They Grow Up So Fast

One day they are suckling at the nipple of your opening chapters and then, before you know it, your little manuscript is all grown up and running out the door, into the critical embrace of the editor. 

It was the same for your eldest, Book 1, and also for Book 2 and Book 3, but you are never as prepared for this moment as you think. You smile to yourself through welling tears, remembering its first word: Prologue.

You relish the memory, but must return to the present. What do you say, what wisdom can you impart as they turn to face you one more time? Look upon it well. It will never return the same. The time you never think will happen is upon you.

images-3“Go,” you say, your voice cracking. “Be careful. Stay true to your plot, to the storyline I passed on to you. Look after your characters for they are your family now. Oh, and always track changes. And don’t forget to save every few minutes. Always back up at the end of the day and floss before you go to sleep.”

For a fleeting moment the young manuscript stares up at you, revealing its understanding of the gravity of this sacred moment. Wordlessly, it asks if this is the right time.

You stroke its spine, muss its pages and sigh. “She’s a good editor. She cares about you and she will make you a better manuscript. You will feel lighter, tighter, and ready to face the readers who will pore over your every word.”

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And the manuscript gulps and nods, not because it believes you, but because it trusts you. You brought it into the world, typed its first words, worried over its development and story arc. When it was sick or faltered, you were beside it, cutting and pasting, making the necessary changes so that it could one day fulfill its destiny.

And then it turns to go, now only an attachment. You type in the editor’s email address and click the button you always dreaded: Send.

Now you sit and stare at the blank screen, swallow hard and wonder what to do with your time. You have no choice. Be strong. This is a circle of life thing. Your fingers hover over the keyboard. The computer holds its breath. And then you type:

Book Five: Prologue

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Dedicated to my editor, Monica Buntin, and all who are brave enough to edit author’s books and lives!

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, The First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+

The Journey Just Gets Better

It has been quite a week with the release of Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3. I am feeling slightly stunned by the closure of the first trilogy. Like At The Walls Of Galbrieth and The First Decree, Ashbar is a self contained story as well as the third in a series.

Ashbar front cover

There is a lot of closure, though not enough to stop the next trilogy from beginning, and I feel a certain sense of forlorn, perhaps as a parent feels when their children leave the nest.  I know the remedy to this – plunge into writing the next book. As the wise saying goes: “One trilogy closes, another opens.

Thank you to everyone who bought Ashbar over the weekend and enabled it to pick up a credible ranking. Please let me know what you thought of it, once read, and leave a review on Amazon. I am surprised at how important these reviews are in terms of trackable purchasing actions and sales ranks. If you have not yet bought it, please invest the $2.99 this week, to help move it to a higher ranking.

I just want to take a moment and thank the incredible support team behind me.

Monica Buntin is my editor. I send her a jumble of about 100,000 words and she makes sense of them. I once had the audacity to tell her that I was sending a pretty clean manuscript. She had the good manners not to respond to that comment, but that didn’t deter her from cutting about 10% of the book and offering (correct) critique on every page.

Oh well. I learned my lesson. Editors are an eclectic breed and I have written about them before. They need authors or they will have nothing to edit and yet have to, I am sure, tolerate an awful lot of ego. When an author finds a good editor and one who clicks with them, they have a rare asset and would do well to keep them.

William J. Kenny, a fantasy author in his own right, designed the covers for all three of the Wycaan Master books. One day, I would like him to reveal the creative process in depth. For now, I am content to consider it magical. I send him a couple of paragraphs with my ideas and he sends me a crude image. He takes my response and produces such a complete picture. I am really in awe of him. If I could draw anything better than deformed stick people, I would love to give the process a go.

Then there is Jeny Reulo from FastFingers Book Formatting Services,  who designs and formats the interior of the books. Her willingness to make changes and attention to detail is amazing. The interior design of a book, if done well, does not garner any attention, but it is a crucial element in the reader’s experience. The interior designers are often the unsung heroes of the expedition into producing a book.

Finally, a big appreciation for my wife Ariela. I am sure she releases a big sigh of relief on the day that I finish writing a manuscript and probably an even bigger sigh of exasperation when, the following week, I begin writing the next book! My absences, both physical and mental, create a void she needs to fill, and she does it with grace and understanding.

This series began as a fun, family project, deep in a redwood forest. My sons were a part of this strange journey, from the prologue in Chapter 1 of At The Walls Of Galbrieth, to the final climax in Ashbar. Earlier this summer I read them a rough first draft of Book 4, and, four years on, it remains an integral part of what I hope and believe is a powerful journey we will share in our memories forever.

This is how it all began - deep in a redwood forest.

Where it all began – deep in a redwood forest.

It really doesn’t get any better than that. Once again, thank you to all who buy, read and review the Wycaan Master series. Your time is precious, the options of good books to read vast, and I am honored that you choose to open and read my books.

Thank you for sharing in the journey of the Wycaan Masters.

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and the sequel The First Decree, both released by Tourmaline Books. Ashbar – Book 3 is the third in the series, released in October 2013. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

100 Days: The Countdown Begins

Wow! What a week. We are about 100 days from the release of Ashbar – Book 3 of The Wycaan Master series. I received the cover from artist (and suspected magician) William Kenney, whose renditions just get better with each book and a copy of the edited manuscript from my editor, Monica Buntin.

Ashbar front cover

With At The Walls Of Galbrieth receiving 1st place at the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Awards and The First Decree garnering such great feedback, I am so excited at the prospect of unleashing Ashbar, where so much will be resolved.

I have a month to review the suggestions and changes that Monica has proposed and then off to the 60 day turnover and the binding of the pages!

Stoked!

In July, that most ancient family tradition (ancient = four years, but bear with me): tents, campfire, Redwoods, and reading a first draft of Book 4 to my most critical audience…my sons.

If you have read either or both of At The Walls Of Galbrieth and The Frist Decree, please take a few moments over the weekend and post a short review on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. It will be a huge help. If you have already reviewed my books – THANK YOU – maybe review another emerging author when you have a moment.

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Have a great weekend, everyone.

Elfwriter

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA – At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.   For more about the author, check out his website.

At The Walls Of Galbrieth – Launched!

A couple of weeks ago, I posted that the imminent release of At The Walls Of Galbrieth was like seeing your child leave home. Well this weekend,  Book 1 of the Wycaan Master series, was busy packing its bags, saying goodbye to its friends, and reminiscing about how its laundry always got done and there was food in the pantry.

Okay, I’m stretching this, but like a parent who constantly peers into their child’s now empty room, I am peeking at Amazon.com, staring in disbelief that my book is finally out there in the big wide world.

But it is there and on Tuesday, the family (the real one) sat around the dinner table and ceremoniously opened the brown cardboard package and held the first paperback copy. My oldest, who deserves a lot of credit for initiating this project, sat and read and reread the dedication to him and scanned the rest of the book. It was rather challenging to get him to relinquish the book so that the rest of us could look.

Just like the child leaving home, it is the end of one stage of life and the beginning of the next. A few days earlier, I received the manuscript for the second book, The First Decree, from my talented editor, Monica Buntin. The next day, I saw the first sketching of that book’s cover by artist, William Kenney. In the past two months, I completed my first serious edit of the third book and I am itching to sink my teeth (or fingers) into writing the fourth. 

This is how it all began – deep in a redwood forest.

I’m glad my wife and I decided on only two children because there are still a lot of books to write and nurture to launch day!

Have a great weekend. If you buy the book, please let me know what you thought. I can’t wait to hear.

Alon Shalev – elfwriter

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Alon Shalev is the author of At The Walls of Galbrieth, Book 1 of The Wyccan Master series, which reached the Quarter Finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012, released by Tourmaline Books. The First Decree, the sequel is due out in early 2013. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).