Category Archives: Gregory D. Little

Gregory D. Little

Starting Over Again … Again

Ungrateful God, the second volume of Unwilling Souls, is with my copy editor as we speak. While I’m not quite ready to announce a release date yet, it’s time to start thinking about the next volume. Beginning a new book is an exciting time full of a blank page’s endless possibilities. That being said, I’ve never done the third book in a series before, but before Ungrateful God, I’d never done a second volume in a series before, either. So it’s worth reflecting on some of the lessons I’ve learned when writing sequels. After all, a lot of those blank-page possibilities will lead to a pretty crappy book.

Do a better job outlining: Ungrateful God will be released many months after I’d originally hoped it would. The main driver for this was the substantial content edits my editor handed back. These were very necessary edits from the standpoint that the book was not living up to its potential (it is now, big time!), but they were also very unnecessary from the standpoint that I could have avoided them if I’d done a better job outlining. So that’s the plan for Book 3, a thorough outline followed by a call to my editor to go over the book’s structure and remove any large weak points before I ever put a word down. I’ve already begun this process, and given that Book 3 will be even more complicated than Ungrateful God (itself more complicated than Unwilling Souls), I’m hopeful I can avoid some pain and suffering later by doing this work up front.

Decide what kind of story I’m telling: I don’t mean to imply I’ve got no idea where the story is going. I have rough notions of major plot points for each of the remaining books in the series. But I also don’t want this series to feel too formulaic. Each book, while both standing alone and telling a portion of a larger story, should feel different than the other books in the series (at least, that’s my desire, but every author’s mileage may vary). So while Unwilling Souls was a chase book with a mystery at its core, in Ungrateful God the pure mystery element is much more front and center, leading to an explosive ending. Similar stylistic decisions must be made before the outline for Book 3 can really resonate. I have a good idea what the answer is, but telling would be, well, telling.

Decide how long between books: I don’t mean the time it takes to write the books, though that’s important too (see below). In this case, I mean the in-world time between books. Ungrateful God begins more than a month after Unwilling Souls ends, so quite a lot has changed between the volumes, and the author has to convey that information to the reader in a way that neither confuses nor bores them. Time jumps are a good way to skip straight over stuff that would otherwise bog down the story into parts that are more interesting and relevant to the story at hand. But they aren’t appropriate for every book, and as it turns out, Book 3 will begin right where Ungrateful God leaves off.

Decide how long between books, the other way: Simply put, I wrote the bulk of the first draft of Ungrateful God too damn fast. I’d set myself (and my editor, more importantly) a deadline I was determined to meet, and I burned myself out getting there, another reason the draft needed so much work. I’m still learning the answer to this “how fast can I write consistently?” and I’ve given myself more time for Book 3. It will help avoid unrealistic deadlines and ensure I can turn in a more quality draft to my editor when the time comes. I’d like to be able to put out more than one book a year, but the reality is I work a full-time day job and I’d also like to, you know, see my loved ones on occasion.

Determine if the formula needs shaking up: Above I said I try not to be formulaic. But the truth is that if books in a series bore no resemblance to one another, they would make for a pretty poor series. I decided early on that in order to make the story as epic as I wanted it, I’d have to play around with the viewpoint format from book to book. In Unwilling Souls, Ses Lucani is the lone viewpoint character. In Ungrateful God, Ses remains the primary viewpoint character with the vast majority of chapters, but I add a second, minor viewpoint character as well. In Book 3, I plan to continue that trend, with a second minor POV (for three total), and so on. At the moment, that works for me as a way of expanding the stories I can tell. Harry Potter fans know that JK Rowling occasionally broke with a strictly Harry POV in later books to give us an idea of what was going on in the wider world. One extra POV per book is a nicely pleasing number to me, but I reserve the right to change my pattern should the needs of the story demand it.

All this pre-work is a new experience for me, a dedicated pantser of a writer. But after several attempts at this and taking honest note of the delays the style has cost me, I’m confident the increased productivity (and decreased wait time of my fans that will result) will be worth all that unpleasant change.

About the Author: Gregory D. Littleheadshot

Rocket scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (all right, during) classes. His first novel, Unwilling Souls, is available now from ebook retailers and trade paperback through Amazon.com. His short fiction can be found in The Colored Lens, A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology, and Dragon Writers: An Anthology. He lives in Virginia with his wife and their yellow lab.

You can reach him at his website (www.gregorydlittle.com), his Twitter handle (@litgreg) or at his Author Page on Facebook.

 

Reality Checks Cut Both Ways

unwilling-souls-cover_promoPhilip K. Dick had a saying: “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.” 2016 has been, for me, the year of the reality check in many different ways. By way of my writing year in review, I’m going to go over four of those below.

I released my first book, Unwilling Souls, late in 2015. What followed was, to put it bluntly, a firm dose of reality. It didn’t do as well, sales-wise, as I would have liked, and it took me a while to come to grips with the disappointment of that. It’s not easy to put that in writing. But this is a writing blog, and I want other writers to see the full spectrum of the industry. I can name three friends off the top of my head who have self-published and found great success right off the bat. But the reality of indie publishing is that there is a lot of noise out there and it will probably take a lot of work and time and some luck for your particular signal to get through.

In the end, I put a lot of time, effort, and care into a story I loved. I released not only a great book but a professionally done one and I’m very proud of it. And if I can brag for a bit, the reviews the book has received so far bear out my belief in it. The high point has been the book’s entry in Mark Lawrence’s second Self Published Fantasy Blog Off. 300 self-published entries were split into “heats” of thirty and distributed to ten bloggers, each of whom read the entries and picked one to send forward to the final round. Amid some very stiff competition over at Lynn’s Book Blog, Unwilling Souls was runner-up in its heat, not quite making it to the finals but earning a very nice review and a consolation interview on Mark Lawrence’s blog. And as perfect counterpoint to the initial disappointment of slow sales, I thought to myself “I can do this. I’m not some sort of fraud.” It was a very different kind of reality check.

Kevin J. Anderson says the best advertisement for your previous book is your next book, and I’d hoped to release the sequel, Ungrateful God, less than a year after the first. I nearly drove myself insane from December ’15 through the end of March of this year working toward an editing deadline. But as working fast is not always working best, and because this book is longer and more complicated book than its older sibling, the edits I got back from Joshua Essoe were more extensive than I planned. When the beginning third of a book needs extensive reworking, that tends to cascade through the rest of the text, and so for anyone patiently waiting for the next installment, please be patient a bit longer. I promise you that the end result will be both much better than it was and a much better book than its predecessor as well. Reality check number three turned out to be that my day job and my sanity necessitate a bit less aggressive of a publishing schedule.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t churn out quality content quickly when I have to. In late March, immediately after turning my draft of Ungrateful God over to Joshua’s red pen, I had a choice to make. I could either forego submitting to the latest Superstars anthology Dragon Writers, or I could write and edit a short story worthy of publication in less than three days — something I’d never done before. Since I already had the Unwilling Souls universe on the brain and a dragon-themed story was both appropriate to that world and timely, I wrote a story set in the distant past of the world of my series about the team that killed the last of the great beasts after the Immurement War (which just happened to be a dragon of sorts). “Shattered Pieces Swept Away” was born. I was very pleased with the story, but didn’t even have time to get it beta-read before having to submit it, so I was not optimistic about its inclusion with so many other great entries. I was both surprised and humbled when it was accepted. It’s something I wouldn’t have been able to do even a year earlier. Call that reality check number four.

And of course, no recap of 2016 would be complete without reporting that for the first time since 2012, I managed to make it back to the Superstars Writing Seminar. Seeing all my old friends in person and making new ones will always be one of the highlights of any year I can manage it. It’s like catnip for writers, and I’m never so motivated to get out there and write as when I leave the seminar. While I won’t be able to go again this upcoming year, rest assured I’ll find my way back.

So 2016 was all about reminding me that a writer has to take the long view. This year has taught me that I can absorb disappointment and keep trucking forward, all the while building a readership little by little (pun intended). Not coincidentally, it’s also the year where I first started feeling like a “real” writer at the start of an exciting journey. Thanks for following my posts this year, Fictorians readers. I look forward to sharing the next year of this journey with you. I hope each of you have a wonderful holiday season, and I’ll see you in the new year!

 

About the Author: Gregory D. Littleheadshot

Rocket scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (sometimes during) classes. His first novel, Unwilling Souls, is available now from ebook retailers and trade paperback through Amazon.com. His short fiction can be found in The Colored Lens, A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology, and Dragon Writers: An Anthology. He lives in Virginia with his wife and their yellow lab.

You can reach him at his website (www.gregorydlittle.com), his Twitter handle (@litgreg) or at his Author Page on Facebook.

Thanks For Being Adaptable

Another November is in the books, a weirdly warm one where I live, with leaves still on many trees. It’s been a great month of posts here at Fictorians. When I selected the theme, I didn’t come close to guessing the variety of topics on display. But that’s always the case when you work with such a great group of writers! My thanks to everyone who contributed posts. In particular, I want to thank our guest posters for the month: Ken Hoover, R.R. Virdi, Gama Ray Martinez, Ramón Terrell and Aubrie Nixon. I hope to see each of you back providing more great content for us in a future month!

I’d also like to single out outgoing Fictorians President Kristin Luna for praise and thanks as she finishes out her term of office and returns to the ranks of the membership. She’s done a fantastic job steering a course for us this year, keeping us on-track and growing as a blog. Anytime I needed someone to bounce an idea off of or a piece of advice, she was there to lend an ear.

Lastly and most importantly, I want to thank all the readers who dropped by for a visit each day, particularly with so many other matters clamoring for your attention this month, such as NaNoWriMo and, well, other things.

Now I’ll turn matters over to Kevin Ikenberry, who will be taking the reins in December for his Year in Review. Happy December, all!

The White Whale of Adaptations – A Blockbuster Video Game Movie

Roger Ebert (may he rest in peace) famously contended that video games are not art. He acknowledged that video games could contain art within themselves, but that they, as a whole, did not constitute art. The reason? The end -user of a video game, namely the player, had too much control over what did and didn’t happen. True art, Mr. Ebert contended, was something that could only be experienced by the end-user, never directed or controlled.

Now, I know plenty of gamers who would love to challenge Mr. Ebert’s assertion, myself included. But in at least one respect video games have lagged behind “story-based” art such as books, television, and films themselves. Despite three decades of in-home gaming, there has yet to be a video game adapted into a movie that is both critically and commercially successful.

Now, as any gamer and movie-goer can tell you, this is not for lack of trying. From 2001’s Tomb Raider to 2016’s Warcraft, Hollywood is littered with video game movies that were critical failures, commercial failures, or more often, both. This despite video gaming as an industry projected to make $82 billion (with a “b”) in revenue in 2017. Put simply, the intersection between moviegoers and video gamers must be huge. There is a ton of money to be made if this pairing can be made successfully.

So why haven’t we had that breakthrough film adapting a video game yet?

In actuality, I believe there are several difficulties in adapting video game into passive viewer experiences. From most to least obvious, I’ll discuss them below.

  1. Many people like playing video games. Significantly fewer like watching someone else play them. Repetitive action by the player with slight variations makes up a majority of most video games’ run-time. For the gamer, this is usually fun if the game is well-designed, because they are in control. For a passive observer, not so much. So the first step of any attempt to adapt a game into a successful and artful film is to figure out which parts of the game have to get stripped out. You’ve got to compress the game to a two-hour run-time without boring people to tears OR losing the feel of what you are trying to adapt. The Last of Us is a beautiful and wrenching story of love and loss in the twilight of humankind, but a film version would still need to find the balance between just-enough and too-much stabbing of fungal-zombies.
  2. Story continues to be secondary in many games. Now this only makes sense. The goal of a game is to provide the player with an enjoyable interactive experience. Telling them a story is generally secondary. While some people (me again) will almost always prefer a game with a well-written story (and there are plenty of those now), many are just looking for an escapist good time with endless replay value and the chance to pretend-kill their friends online. With some notable exceptions, most video games did not expend much effort on a meaningful story until relatively recently (and even now, many still don’t bother). This doesn’t mean that games can’t be adapted into quality films, but it does narrow the field of possible candidates quite a bit. But surely a movie based on the board game Battleship can be green-lit, Hollywood can do better in the video game adaptation department.
  3. Video games are waiting for their champion. This one came to me after Sam Raimi successfully adapted Spider Man into a successful and critically acclaimed movie. At around the same time, Peter Jackson knocked it out of the park with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which Frank Morin will be discussing later in the month as Evan Braun tackles his more complicated The Hobbit trilogy of films. What did these two filmmakers have in common? They were both huge fans of the subject matter they were adapting. And that’s what the coming breakthrough video game movie is going to need, a talented director who grew up loving video games and has a special one close to their heart that they are going to make into a film if it kills them. The problem with video games (as opposed to classic fantasy or comic books) is that the medium hasn’t been around long enough for those directors to really come of age. But do the math with me. It’s been just over thirty years (ugh) since the Nintendo Entertainment System took the home-gaming world by storm. An entire generation of directors who grew up playing video games is just entering the height of their careers. All it’s going to take is the right pairing of director and project.

And that’s where we’re going to wrap things up. Make no mistake, the time of the video game blockbuster film that wows critics is coming, and it’s coming soon. And there are so many games to choose from. The Last of Us has a more emotionally moving story than most movies I’ve seen. With the revivals of both Star Wars and Star Trek, the Mass Effect universe is just begging for a cinematic franchise. Ditto for Dragon Age. Bioshock: Infinite is the very definition of a game whose mind-bending story of parallel universes is better than its gameplay.

So take heart, fellow gamers who watch with envy as every single comic book character is adapted for film. It won’t be long now.

 

About the Author: Gregory D. LittleHeadshot

Rocket scientist by day, fantasy and science fiction author by night, Gregory D. Little began his writing career in high school when he and his friend wrote Star Wars fanfic before it was cool, passing a notebook around between (sometimes during) classes. His first novel, Unwilling Souls, is available now from ebook retailers and trade paperback through Amazon.com. His short fiction can be found in The Colored Lens, A Game of Horns: A Red Unicorn Anthology, and the upcoming Dragon Writers Anthology. He lives in Virginia with his wife and their yellow lab.

You can reach him at his website (www.gregorydlittle.com), his Twitter handle (@litgreg) or at his Author Page on Facebook.