Friday, April 17, 2015

Outcast Ops: African Firestorm Lessons

Here are a couple of early cover designs (done by the talented J. Kent Holloway), and like the cover, African Firestorm went through a few revisions along the way.

I think it's safe to say that I didn't fully realize what I was getting into when I signed up to write this. While I had written novel length fanfiction before, and have the majority of three paranormal novels written, this was my first challenge.

The first step was actually outlining what would happened in the novel, and I learned my first lesson: Don't over-complicate the plot. The first three-quarters of the novel went as we outlined it, but the second half was truncated from the original outline. I also removed a group of bad guys I had in the outline and plan to use the characters from that in Red Ice. Second lesson: nothing  -- plot points, characters, groups -- is wasted to a writer. All they need is the right venue.

Third lesson; make sure you and your co-author are on the same page from the start. Rick Chesler is an easy guy to work with and we had no major problems with working out the outline or the actual writing. But I had to remember that Outcast Ops is Rick's group and he has final say on what happens. We were in agreement with all the major points and there was never any friction between us, but Rick had the final say, and I easily accepted that.

The fourth lesson I leaned is nothing beats research. The research for this novel was extensive, as it covered several counties, events, political situations, nuclear subjects, container ships, South African and Somali language, Arab customs, and military forces. I probably over researched it, but like the second lesson, little of it will be wasted.

The folder on my computer with African Firestorm background material is multiple GB in size, including saved multiple webpages on Somali pirates, ship anti-pirate defenses, Arab and South African names, different military systems, all the way down to what type of cars are driven in South Africa. While all that didn't make it into the book, the information allowed me to write with the knowledge that if I need it, I had it.

Google maps was the next best thing to getting on a plane and going to South Africa. I was able to chose several locations for the novel, and while the people and businesses aren't real, being able to see the location where they lived and worked made the job of describing the location so much easier. The use of the street level feature helps so much to get a feel for the location -- the colors, the building heights, the neighborhood surrounding the location, and the roads. It was so much better being able to write with certainty about a location I've never been to.

The fifth lesson I am still learning is to sit back and let the book go. I'm still publicizing it, through this blog and on both twitter and Facebook, but like a new parent, I keep checking to see how it's doing on Amazon. Over the last eleven days, I've watched it shoot up, then slide down slowly, then shoot up again, rinse and repeat. Right now, it's sitting at #88,368 Paid in Kindle Store with two reviews and a 5-star overall rating. It'll take some time to stop the urge to renew the webpage and see how it's doing.

Which leads to lesson six; you did it once, do it again. I've outlined the first twenty chapters of the next Outcast Ops novel I'm co-authoring. It's called Red Ice, and take place in San Francisco. Which means more research and more Google Maps......

Write on!


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