Author Archives: Joshua K Johnson

#AmQuerying

With the first couple passes of edits completed for Loyalty Betrayed, I’ve begun the arduous process of querying agents.

I’m currently building a list of agents and agencies who are interested in Fantasy and should get the ball rolling soon.

If any of my readers are agented authors who have agents open to queries, please drop me a line if you’d be willing to refer me, the help would be appreciated!

Otherwise it’s into the query trenches I go!

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A “Novel Web”

Over the last couple of years I’ve been jotting down random ideas for stories and just letting them sit while I work on other stuff. Occasionally I’ll go back and add some stuff to them, but for the most part they just sit and wait.

Recently, I’ve decided to take several of those ideas and blend them together. While I’m working on edits for Loyalty Betrayed, I’m taking the time to plot out what I describe as a Web of Novels.

These stories are set on Zaria, a few years after Loyalty Betrayed. The basic idea is that there are 6 different threads of independent stories, but they’ll weave into each other and impact the events of the other threads.

Sometimes this will be direct interaction and sometimes it will be a “knock-on” effect of an action in one thread causing a reaction on another thread. It will be interesting plotting this as I want to make sure that everything is lined up. Which means I’ll be writing about 250,000 words of outline total. Should be fun!

Loyalty Betrayed Draft 2 Complete

At just shy of 91,000 words, the second draft of Loyalty Betrayed is complete.

There are still some story lines I need to beef up in editing, but I’m working on my next project while I let it rest for a little while. Ideally, I’d love to be able to get it edited and cleaned up in time for PitchWars at the end of September, but we’ll see how it goes. The prologue and first chapter have already been heavily edited, so I have a head-start on that.

My next project, the “Web” of novels planned to take place 8 years after Loyalty Betrayed, is in the high level outline process right now. Twenty-five Novels spread across 6 Independent but Interconnected threads. I’ll make a post on that soon.

If anyone would like to Beta Read Loyalty Betrayed, feel free to drop me a line!

Flying Through Rewrites!

As I mentioned in my last post, I threw out almost all of Loyalty Betrayed.

The story was stilted and felt like I had forced it into a box. I kept the Prologue and Chapter 1, but the rest of it got the ax.

Over the course of the last week I wrote an entirely new chapter-by-chapter outline, which clocked in at about 7,500 words, and I’ve been working on my second draft.

And let me tell you, having written the story once and then refocused it with a new outline, I’ve been tearing through the words. I’m currently sitting at approximate 45,000 words and I’ve run through about 1/3 of the outline.

The focus I’ve had is incredible. This is the first time I’ve ever trashed a “complete” draft, rebuilt and restarted and I’m really enjoying the pace. I’ve veered off a little from the outline here and there, but then I do that regularly. It’s the 10% or so of my brain that’s a “pantser”.

I’m on vacation starting today so I have about 8 days of no work with which I hope to really lay into this draft. I’m looking forward to finishing it and getting back into edits. I’ll update more as I go along!

If anyone is interested in Beta-Reading when I get this draft complete, let me know!

So, I threw out 80,000 Words…

I was reading through Loyalty Betrayed (aka Series 2;Book 1) and I came to a realization.

I had originally conceived of the story as a retelling of Othello, with significant changes to the cast and the overall storyline (its more a political betrayal for the bride of the MC than it is a physical betrayal). But I ended up feeling that I had leaned too heavily on the source materials.

The storyline didn’t flow the way I wanted it to, I shoehorned in certain scenes just because they were in the play.

So, I took the first 2 chapters and threw the rest out. I needed to add a bunch of content anyways because I had removed a secondary plot of about 40,000 words (that’s going to either be a companion novella or Book 2 in the series, not sure which yet).

I spent the last day writing a new chapter-by-chapter summary and just wrapped that up at a little over 7,000 words. Now to get to the actual rewriting process.

The Magic/Tech Formula

In the world of Gunpowder Fantasy, there is a fine line to walk between magic and technology.

Magic will necessarily impact how technology develops within your world. If magic is extremely common, useful and easy to use, why would people develop technology like steam power and rifles? On the other hand, a lack of magic will facilitate the advancement of these technologies much like it did in our world.

To that end, I’ve developed a rudimentary formula that can help you determine what your starting point should be so you get the most out of your world.

On the magic side of things, I have 4 scores: Commonality, Functionality, Difficulty, and Cost. All rated on a scale of 1-10.

Magic

CommonalityHow Common is Magic?

For Commonality, you want to decide how common you want magic to be in your world. Can everyone use magic, either through natural talent or the ability to learn? Then you’re going to give your magic system a Ten for commonality. Is magic, inversely, very rare, either because it requires a rare natural talent or years of study? Then your magic system gets a One.

FunctionalityHow Useful is Magic?

For this score, you want to decide what areas of your world magic can affect. Can your magic users do anything they want with magic? Fireballs, teleportation, communication, etc. If you want magic to touch every part of your world, you’re going to give it a Ten. On the other hand, if you want magic to be very narrowly useful, then a One score is appropriate.

Difficulty, How Difficult is Magic?

If you want your magic to be difficult to control or learn, then give it a Ten. If you want your mages and wizards to be able to weave magic and cast spells without much challenge, then score a One.

Cost, What Does Magic Cost?

No cost magic that can be cast all day and without fear of repercussion? A Ten. MAgic that costs life energy and exhausts the mage, or even blood magic that requires a sacrifice to achieve? A One

Total Score

Once you have determined these scores, you add them together for a maximum total score of 40 for a common, easy to use, very useful and low cost magic system. A very rare, marginally useful magic system that has a high degree of difficulty and cost will rate a minimum of 4.

Magic Modifier

Once your have your Total Magic Score, you divide it by 8. Why 8? Because that’s the sweet spot that I found for impact on technology.

Technology

Writing a Gunpowder Fantasy means that you have embraced that technology and society will be advancing beyond the stasis of Medieval Europe that many fantasies embrace, at least in some areas and at some rate.

Base Technology, What is your Starting Point?

For the most part, I would recommend giving your world a base technology score of Ten so that the modifications work the best.

Progression, How Fast/Far Will Tech Go?

This score is rated from 0-2, in .5 increments and measures how fast and how far technology will move over the course of your story. There are two determining factors in this score: how long will you be in this world, and how fast do you want technology to develop. The first part is fairly simple: do you want to write a Stand-Alone Novel? Then technology is not likely to advance very far. A series, especially focused on conflict, will typically advance beyond your starting point (See my Post Here on the Arms Race).

Inversely, if you’re writing a series you’ll want to see a progression of technology rather than rapidly leaping from one technology level to the next, so this will lower the progression score.

Final Tech Score

Now that we have the parts of our formula in place, we can put it to work as such:

(Base Tech)-(Progression)-((Commonality+Functionality+Difficulty+Cost)/8)=Final Tech Score

For what this score means, I have a 4 point scale for technology that impacts Weapons, Travel/Communication, and Society.

One – Worlds with a final technology score of  1 will be at the very basic end of the Gunpowder Fantasy Spectrum. Weapons will be in the mid to late Match Lock era with primitive artillery. Travel will be entirely beast of burden driven, with no steam-powered trains or ships. Communication will be messenger and courier based. Society will likely still be in the feudal stages or even despotism and there will be no collective labor groups.

Real World Example – Early Colonial Period of the United States; Europe from the 15th to early 18th centuries.

Three – As your technology score rises, so does the access to firearms and artillery. A world with a 3 rating will have smoothbore, flintlock rifles, moderately early smoothbore artillery and mortars. Travel will still be animal driven, though a high 4 score might be in the early stages of railroad development and communication will still rely on couriers or messengers. Absolutely monarchies will be replacing the feudal system but collective labor will still be a thing of the future.

Real World Example – Revolutionary War Period of the United States; Seven Years War in Mid-to-Late 18th Century

Five – A middle of the road score will see percussion muskets in use and the early stages of railroad travel coming to life in your world. You might also see the first stages of telegraph systems at a high 6 rating. Early representative and democratic governments start to replace the ancient kingdoms and empires as labor begins to collect under the banner of guilds.

Real World Example – The Mexican-American War of the 19th Century; Crimean War in Europe

Seven – Rifling has entered the world of firearms, allowing for more accuracy at longer ranges and a shift in combat tactics. Artillery will have started to implement rifling as well. Railroads, and even the early stages of steam powered ships, will be common in a world with a rating of Seven . Telegraphy will be common, allowing for rapid communication across entire nations with minimal lag. Democracy will still be a developing form of governments but labor will be strongly collectivized in Guilds and even the earliest formation of Unions could be seen.

Real World Example – American Civil War

Nine – The most advanced bracket of technology in a Gunpowder Fantasy, a score of 9 will see the use of repeating rifles and revolvers. Railroads will be extremely common and well-developed as will the use of telegraphy to communicate complex orders and news. Democracy will be the government de jour and Unions will have replaced Guilds as the most common form of Collected Labor.

Real World Example – American Imperialist Period of the late 19th Century, Industrial Revolution.

Summary

Beyond these technologies, you start to lean into Steampunk territory. In the end, no matter where this formula leads you, it’s your world to do with as your please. I hope that this proves helpful, however, in pointing you in the right direction for where your technology should start and where it can lead based on what your goals are and how far you want to take the Gunpowder Fantasy Genre.

 

Worldbuilding for Gunpowder Fantasy

Hey all,

I’m considering writing/producing a “Worldbuilding for Gunpowder Fantasy” series for YouTube.

What do you think? What aspects would you like included in it?

Leave a comment and let me know!

Quick Update

Hello World!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and I apologize. I’ve been dealing with life and drama. But have no fear, content is coming and I’ll be back to writing soon.

I’m going to do something odd soon: stream my writing on Twitch! Keep your eyes peeled for more info in the coming days!

Building a Shared Universe

In letting Series2:Book 1 (which I haven’t totally settled on a title for yet, but I’m leaning toward “Loyalty Betrayed”) settle for a few months, I turned my attention to planning for another part of the Griffins & Gunpowder world. Typically I’ll take this time to write short stories that expand the world in some small way, or give background to a character or situation. This time it was all about world building.

The problem that I ran into was that I had two different story ideas that I wanted to work on: a political intrigue drama and a criminal empire story. They’re both set in Post-Series 2 Andivar, so they already shared a bit of the same storyline so it was a natural leap to have the two loosely connected.

What I’ve found in laying the groundwork for this shared storyline is that a timeline is essential, even if characters from the two stories never cross paths (though in this case, the two stories will cross over at least a couple times, though the interaction in the early going is minimal), it’s important to keeping everything straight. Especially in the age of the internet where readers congregate to put together theories and compare notes.

Have you read any good shared-universe stories? What were some of the things that you liked or disliked about them?

Took A While

But I’ve finally finished marking up the first round of edits for Series2:Book1. This was a “high-level” pass looking for story holes, missing information, too much information etc. I did a little line-by-line editing too, but it wasn’t the focus since I’ll be rewriting quite a bit.

I have to say, it felt good to get this done so I can move on to making the changes, but I’m always astonished/ashamed of the amount of red ink that I lay down in a first edit pass. It’s only a first draft, but I thought it was a lot better when I wrote it. I guess that’s why they tell you to leave a book set for a while before you edit it.

Now I have to go through and apply the changes and then I’ll make a second pass, which will be more line-by-line in nature.

On another note, I’ll developed half a dozen new story ideas (some set in the world of Zaria) that I think will have some promise. They’re WAY down the list, but at least they aren’t knocking around in the back of my head while I’m trying to work forward. =D