Song of the Mysteries Status Updates

originally posted by Ben Crofts

Really do mostly lurk here, but do appreciate this thread - it sounds the simplest thing ever, just tell people what's going on but doesn't happen a lot of the time.

As to the tech issue - I think it pretty much is 'choose your own corporate tech overlord' :wink:

Whatever is decided, timetabling and signposting from the old to the new will be most important.

Thanks Ben, welcome to delurk.

Today, more pages revised, it's coming together.

As to what's happening, sometimes I have to step sideways and paint to make ends meet (alternate job as it were). The past year, there were sections of time where I was not writing.

Wish that were different, but the paychecks have to match the incoming bills, else nothing would get created at all. Cost of living's rise has been utterly brutal.

originally posted by Jeff

Thanks for taking time to communicate with your readers.

Day-to-day life must take priority and your posting is appreciated. Other authors have also mentioned the economic realities related to writing and publishing.
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Regarding a forum replacement, I agree with others that the chat area on your own site feels more home-like. Would a replacement still be a “private posting area” where “Only registered users and moderators may post messages”? The benefit to a private posting space is that it feels like a friendly safe space to share opinions and it stays generally on topic.

A positive thing about using a more open format (like Disqus, etc) is that it might bring more outside attention to your writing.

A con is that it might become a less civil environment for discussion. In this chat area, participants post things that are positive or, at worst, neutral or inquisitive. If posters get competitive or too intense (I regret to say that I did at one point), a gentle reminder should be sufficient to restore tranquility and relevance.
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L.E. Modesitt has a page (lemodesittjr.com) with information about his publications which includes hia blog where people may respond to his posts. He also has a link to an external forum on www.ibdof.com (Internet Book Database of Fiction). I don’t know if this might be helpful for an idea.

Archive.org (aka Wayback Machine) includes some ‘snapshots’ of paravia.com webpages and posts from dates ranging from 2006-2019. It’s not fully up-to-date, but many of the earlier discussions are available for reading. I don’t know how this impacts copyright, but it’s there in case you were unaware.

I hope this was somewhat helpful…

Hi Jeff, no, I was not aware that Wayback Machine had material from here on it…

As you pointed out, the advantage of a private (though it really isn't, anyone can join, we do moderate, but honestly, it's scarcely been necessary, most of my readership is beautifully civil) - the advantage is a 'home base' where we can all be comfortable and I can post stuff I'd hesitate to elsewhere.

The disadvantage: it does not bring in new readers, and it 'diminishes' the prospect of public discussion of the books -so no outreach at all. If we had no forum here, people who wanted to discuss the books would make a place, and that would certainly be more visible…in some ways, I think the completeness of the site here diminished the presence of the books in general forums elsewhere.

I will look at what LE Modesitt has and take that into account.

I appreciate (you have no idea) communication from my readers, so thank you for posting.

Now I have another post to make an announcement.

Announcement and Opportunity:

If you are located in the UK, FOR A LIMITED TIME, Curse of the Mistwraith is on Kindle Unlimited. It is STILL available for sale on all platforms, this is a special promotional - so - if you have FRIENDS who are on KU in the UK, and they want a whirl with the series, now's their chance.

Apparently also, Destiny's Conflict is on special sale there, on Amazon.

Have at it - spread the word - if we can jolt the algorithm into a higher gear, that would be a very wonderful thing!

Status update for today - figuring out whether the massive revisions to five set will deliver the finale scene up to my standards - if it does, then, on I go into a very meaty bit indeed…

Well, out in the greater world of internet forumville, there arose some complaints (with announcement of the ongoing sale) - that Wurts is 'too slow' and "like, cough cough, insert any other famous author Name, deemed slow unto probably dies before delivery' with asides about 'work ethic' and 'perfectionism.'

Generally I don't care to address it, but today, here's a window of 'insight' into the process of this, the final volume.

You who have read this series to this point (if you still love it) understand that there is a standard to the plotting - that it constantly surprise you, that the characters change, grow, and take new directions, and that, I don't tend to 'repeat' the same actions - each passage, each scene, each chapter has to surprise. Whether by plot twist, a growth spurt, a reveal, even a twist of humor - SOMETHING has to surprise and delight you.

Eleventh volume arises, lo, what do we have? Characters you know intimately well. Some Overpowerd, and now you know why. Some, touted as wickedly clever, and you have seen that in action. Unpredictability, surprise, suspense - FROM A NEW ANGLE, constant invention required.

I want to address 'work ethic' - you should see my (lately brand new) office chair - WORN OUT. Yep. Seat of the pants to the seat of the chair/minus exercise, minus animal feeding, minus elderly mother caretaking/intermittent, but sometimes intense. Minus some painting time to pay some bills, not otherwise covered. Some mental stimulation with training and OCCASIONAL callouts for SAR. My life in a nutshell, Don and I are constantly working.

Perfectionism - 'why not' they whine, 'just get it done, and quit fussing over details?'

Chapter Five Set - here's why. I wrote 45 pages of METICULOUS draft, well worked, carefully fitted - to an ending within projected page length to meet outlined Result - and it did not meet standard. Done, yeah, but no. Why Not? Welp - cold eye of authorial oversight: too linear, to 'like other scenes' when said character had LESS power at hand; no suspense, no tension, no 'threat' that could not be surmounted - and in this volume we have a majorly awake, majorly Overpowered character who is PISSED. And in general, making the other powers of the world PISS THEIR BREEKS.

Folks, I have buckets of drafts, buckets of short works/incomplete/buckets of stuff I've turned down because: the ideas did not fit standard.

The Gallant stewed for Ten Years for the missing bits to ring my bells.

This story won't take that long; the outline and high point by high point connections are CERTAIN (with The Gallant, I was missing some major dots/when they filled in, the story was a breeze to complete).

The scene on my desk, today, was labored over all through holidays - I fully FULLY expected to put quits to the section by New Years - but even 'done' and 'corrected' it just read FLAT, and every instinct I had screamed Something Missing.

So: fresh eyes/after end of year tax accounting. The draft as it stood was a dud. I tossed, instantly, six pages, wrote in a little zany thingie to ramp tension, all good…but dammit, not yet.

Tossed some more pages, shifted POV/rewrote a whole section to a different character;s broader overview, tossed in some major powers Nervously seriously concerned they Could Piss their Breeks. And themselves asking deeper, scarier questions of Why the character was 'doing' what seemed - ahem…no spoilery.

Yes, better, but the older bits (which parts were SO solid/but at this stage totally expendable, I don't hang on to what doesn't work) and the new arrangement were not entrained - they did not deliver the seguay, they would not connect; the writing was giving me HELL - so why not just push past it - you know, the 'apply work ethic thingie' - but the gears ground with nasty reluctance.

Until. THIS MORNING. Oh, mother, Yes, The muse delivered the stand it ON ITS HEAD little twist - THIS married the older finish of that draft (that I thought I HAD TO TOSS WHOLESALE, and reformed it with a tweak. It Delivered the needed shock, that surprise twist…so - Chapter V main has hit standard.

Oh, I could have just 'left it as it was' and shoved on. As with Mistress of the Empire, when parts of the secondary draft fell to me, and the folks in the chairs who pay checks just wanted it DONE, could I NOT stop slowing the train to the finish and just 'left it as was' with a little fling of a flourish. But I could not then, and I will not now, fail to deliver the quality you expect. Not just expect: that you count on.

This isn't procrastination, it isn't 'oh, god, I'm tired of this story, (not!) - it is making the ON PAGE happenstance that connects the Major Dots in the finalized outline work to the level I expect. It has to surprise. It has to outwit. It has to entertain.

I try to be transparent as I can. When your personal life takes a dive, I don't sprawl it all over the internet. (yes, parents die/lost my Dad during Initiates' Trial). (Yes, we lose animals that are LIKE FAMILY,) All of us know this. I see no need to burden you folks with those sorrows. We all suffer them, and rise, and go on.

But when I tell you Last Volumes have one shot at getting it as it should be, it's not frivolous 'perfectionism' but delivering the finish you have come to expect.

The bar for this series is set very high. and I am MEETING IT.

When you get to Chapter Set V in this book, when it is published - you will surely be grateful.

And if you want a 'parallel' to look back on: check out the very VERY revealing scene that at face value, perhaps, seemed soooo simple, the info conveyed was not huge - take the scene where Tarens and Cosach have that drinking contest/rivalry - and REMOVE all of that byplay and sketch out the bare conclusion…if there wasn't that human element to it - boring, eh?

This scene at hand now is 'not so simple' nor is the 'surprise twist' embroidered with frivolous fun - it is deadly serious, (there are pissed breeches at critical moments) - but - it had to have that 'stand it upsidedown' surprise to work, and not just for THIS scene, but as a precursor to uphold the tension and 'oh, gads, here's the next pissed breeks moment' to come.

The story HAS to keep you guessing, it HAS to twist and reveal, and it HAS to ring true to standard.

I don't know any other way to work.
No apologies, I am working as hard as I can, and it does take time. NOBODY wants this book ready and turned in more than me. Nobody. It will meet standard, no compromise.

originally posted by Jeff

I, for one, appreciate your artwork and it will be ready when it is.

originally posted by Walt

Wouldn't have it any other way Janny! And thank you for the throwback to Mistress of the Empire (what got me to pick up Mistwraith almost 30 years ago)…

I've been sorely disappointed by two major series endings that felt too much like they were just trying to get it all over with, resulting in a "well that was a let down" feeling. After taking this long journey with you and Don, I am very happy to wait however long it takes to ensure that the Athera Saga ends exactly how YOU need it to end.

Thanks so much, Walt and Jeff, for your votes of confidence. Means a lot.

Update: whelp, Chapter V's revised sequence is ON FIRE! It has now taken off like a rocket, thrown grappling hooks into stuff in All directions, has plenty of edge of your seat tensions, ramped up plenty, and - ah, yes - the slam dunk of a punch line I wanted.

I could barely keep up on the keyboard, fitting all the bits into their place - essential to get the entire sequence tagged together while it is hot. Have that draft in place, now…what's left is to finesse it, re-check from the start to be sure it plays smoothly (no artifacts from where it was revised) and to smooth out and sharpen the (existing) scene at the finish…with a decision to make regarding Where to break the action off - in full, with a LOOOONG main chapter, or spin it into a sub chapter finish that will set up the (already started) scene of the next subchapter.

What a bonus, a FUN Day of writing high, after weeks of pulling teeth.

I will dig back in if eye strain will allow/into the evening, and at some point soon, reassess for a page count.

Worth The Struggle.

originally posted by Judy

I, for one, am more than willing to wait as long as the creator deems necessary in order to get story that meets or exceeds what went before. Too many multi-book series seem to turn into, as Yogurt would say, "the quest for more money." TWOLAS ain't such a beast and I love it for that. It's a constantly evolving and growing character piece within an intriguing world that also changes as a result of our characters' actions. I impatiently want more but understand it takes time. I'll wait.

Re the update. I can guess who the "pissed" individual is and can't wait to see what he (my guess) does. I wouldn't want him truly angry at me!

originally posted by Laneth Sffarlenn

It must be said that your dedication not only to your craft but to your forum here is nothing short of incredible.

That you would clarify your process to such a degree so that we have such an intimate understanding - despite many of us here having stuck with you for so very long now and have seen it unfold with your updates and such - just goes above and beyond.

Since discovering Mistwraith around the same time that I left home, some twenty years ago now, your craft has been an absolute favourite - far eclipsing your contemporaries and other authors of time gone.

The intricacy and efficiency with which you craft your narrative, the layered and long-reaching threads that oft aren't revealed in their true light for entire volumes; the deftness that you employ to strike at the heart of the reader, grappling and leading them on a journey so vast it spins the mind - it's awe inspiring.

Surely not for everyone, but folk need to understand that you can simply not like something and move on without the need to express vitriolic opinion or tear others down to sate your desire for some misplaced and imagined personal slight.

As others have said, countless times, one is beyond content to await your own satisfaction with the text - especially when one remembers that you are indeed also a human being.

Thank you again for sharing Janny, you honour us all.

I read that other thread and winced when it started to get heated. The fact that the "too slow" post came from someone who clearly loved the series highlights a problem with how the Internet and author accessibility have changed our expectations. It's at the point where trying to make people understand the logistics of writing is a full-time job itself, and authors can either spend all day correcting misconceptions on the Internet or let them slide and write something that proves itself worth the wait.

No matter how often you explain why the publishing industry has churned, why you can no longer write as a full-time vocation, or why each chapter requires perfection (and you have explained all of this, in spades, in many venues at many different times!), the word will not reach every single reader. There are simply too many communications channels available, and even with helpful fans as your ambassadors (like the ones who tempered the conversation in the "too slow" thread), it's impossible to establish a shared understanding across the entire audience. I almost think we need a highly compressed (3 - 4 paragraph) FAQ page that captures these nuances, distilled from all of your posts on the subject(s). At least that way, your ambassadors in other forums can easily point people to the info when a misconception rears its head.

On a separate note, let us know if there are tangible things we can do to support your work beyond cheerleading. I've bought book copies for friends before and do what I can when WoLaS-related threads appear in forums I frequent (when it makes organic sense, so I don't appear to be a shill). I would also totally chip in a few bucks to rainy day / sick horse fund if it gave you more control over your writing!

originally posted by Clansman

I agree with all of my paravia.com colleagues above, Janny. You have trained us to expect nothing less. Too many series started out with great expectations, and then the lure of regular publication and the profits to be made resulted in poor character development, big plot holes, and series bloat. When Brandon Sanderson took over WoT, he had to be brutal with a number of story lines that did not add to the story, and he brought them to sudden and brutal ends to focus the story (Masema knifed in the heart by Faile, ending his storyline "like a sitcom character", or the whole Whitecloaks story just petering out, etc.). WoT is a perfect example of what can happen when the author just lets creativity run wild, and doesn't spend the corresponding amount of time editing the story to ensure it works.

A long time ago Janny, I read how you completely separate the creative process from the editing process, and it is a method that I have employed myself in my professional writing (for those who don't know, I'm a lawyer and mediator). It works exceptionally well because, as Janny puts it, the two processes are diametrically opposed. In teaching my daughter how to write university papers, as she was agonizing over each sentence of each paragraph, I stopped her cold, and said "just BARF it out on the page! Get some kind of information down, and just keep going until there's none left in your notes, then STOP. Go for a walk, have coffee with a friend, etc. then edit the chaos you have created. Better still, finish your BARF a week before the paper is due, let it sit for 24 hours while you do other stuff, and then edit. Then BARF more, then edit, tune, refine."

A number of authors just BARF, having a technicolour story that is chaotic with good bits, bad bits, and some really awful bits. Or, they just give up, and stop producing the real story while HBO scripts take it over. 8 years since ADWD, George. 8. Just be honest and say it will never happen.

Janny, seeing your process explained shows how refined it is. To refine gold, it must be fired at high temperatures in a crucible to remove the impurities. That takes time and intense heat. I for one am more than happy to wait so you have time, because I know you have the determination to bring the heat necessary to make this story second to none, the pure 24K gold we have come to expect from you.

I believe I speak for the entire congregation when I say "thank you, Tailspinner, for your dedication to your craft, your characters, and your fans". We know you won't let us down.

Thank you Judy, Llaneth, Brian, Clansman - everyone who's commented here. I definitely know this post was not written for those of you who understand this series in its fullness and entirety. I was providing ammo, actually - so IF you see someone saying something without complete understanding - my process can be made transparent.

You are all free to quote this post (it is public) in any way you see fit.

What can be done, meantime? I can try to post here more often/say, I have to paint for 30 days, or, this section is going slow (or this one is a breeze). Not every chapter is difficult. But as the series closes down, every single chapter has to be brutally precise/and the low hanging fruit (the obvious devices and reveals) have already been done before, so the invention demand gets higher. (Why some long series bog - it gets HARDER).

What else can be done?
The publisher is running in the UK (and some other countries, just not US/CAnada) this promotional sale for Mistwraith, and availability for KU. Get the word out WITH a description of what the series entails - because many will download it/and not bother to read it and just as many COULD download it with expectation of a simpler story and hit the wall. Posts that prepare them, reviews that prepare them - that refine the perception right now WILL change the algorithm and make the series a lot more visible. If the algorithm shifts, more publicity will happen while I am only writing. Even if you only star rate this series, ALL THE BOOKS - there are 'some' people who won't read a book beneath a certain 'star' average - won't even LOOK at it - they won't bother to look at the graph (more readers satisfied, few one stars pulling the average) - so just clicking a star rating helps so much. Some sites don't even HAVE any feedback for these books at all - particularly the later volumes (everything after Peril's Gate) - the further along the series, the LESS coverage the books have. Crowd sourced help can re-balance that. Some readers do drop off in a series - but if there are so few reviews and ratings, it looks like it's the book's flawed (on the surface take, that is). But many rule their decisions by that surface take.

Update any forum posts you know of - one particular forum has a dedicated thread, and NOBODY has posted there since 2018. The Gallant, Black Bargain, and The Decoy are all available in ebook at Paravia - no updates for them/hence no visibility.

Any announcement of this 'sale' opportunity - which is temporary/time limited.

Any appreciation threads, any rating, ANY review, any discussion thread on public forums feeds visibility. Right now, while there is no book shelf presence in the chain stores - internet visibility is critical…until the algorithm catches up and starts matching this book with others of similar caliber, it is Not Seen. What I notice is that, a great comment/review/momentary mention DOES push the stats, but, they die back. It takes constant presence. I don't like to ask this of ANYONE, but it truly makes a HUGE difference.

And book sales add up to ME not having to scramble so hard to pay the bills. A more relaxed frame of mind means better quality writing time.

I should add: I am fiscally responsible, I do not live past my means, I DO have a cushion (was able to pay the vet costs when the horse went down)/we own our house and cars/paid off all loans when times were good. I don't need to do a patreon and I don't need to plead for folks to chip in.

I do need help with the visibility thing, because that I cannot do myself; and there are limits to what the publisher will do before the next volume comes out, and What they do then will depend on the new reader sales we can accrue NOW.

There is a run up time to make this happen, while I work on this draft.

You are ALL a great help, the fact some of you knew where 'that' post was and were willing to contribute, this is huge, and I thank you.

Brian: if you think something in the FAQ would help (about process) then copy the posts you think are relevant, and it may be that this page can be added. (I can't code, I have to ask for help with that/want this draft pretty well DONE before I tackle finding a person to redesign this site top to bottom).

It's lovely to see turnout here in my support. I did notice that some threads are not allowing posts - may be they have to be manually tweaked. If you are noticing this/wanted to add something but couldn't, feedback please.

It is entirely typical that the high profile writers who are not producing fast enough to satisfy their readership DO tar the pot across the boards. So I expect a certain number of people to bitch, just because they LOVE THE FIELD and are disappointed. It is their unhappiness and impatience speaking, not their malice, I truly believe.

It only gets maddening when there's an opportunity to MOVE this series' awareness forward, and a dissatisfied post colors the momentum right at the start of what could be a HUGE boost.

So yeah, I don't need to engage and correct the internet; but I did feel the need to provide you here with material that could flesh out the picture, where it crops up.

You are empowered by that, and therefore, so am I.

Thank you.

Janny, I will take on the task of putting together a brief FAQ summary with reference links to your longer public posts. Once you bless the text, I can put it on the Song of the Mysteries page in the Paravia Wiki – this avoids any manual website coding, makes it easy to update as you progress, and provides an easy-to-link page for people to paste in other convos. It also has the side effect of being the first thing new visitors will see when they reach the Song of the Mysteries page from Google (traffic on that front has modestly increased over the past year, with some visitors eventually discovering this forum).

Wow, Brian, thank you - you deserve a medal! And hearing that thereis an uptick on the Song of the Mysteries page is encouraging! Great to hear.

Today's update - draft was cooking along; I am still melting together the old and the new bits, and did a lot of work on the subsequent subchapter to mesh it together. More to go on that front, but the map is solid, just integrating and cleaning up the raw transitions. There is actually a solid stride forward in the page count I am happy with, too.

Today's update:

I am working on the finishing scene of the revised Chapter 5 set, which got longish. So either it will get trimmed/or - perked up with a spike or two of new insight, and then, torn off this main chapter and attached to the following subchapter, which has also been revised to take this bit and bridge it to the final subchapter…so I'm at work simultaneously on the finish of Main V, the Opening of Subchapter 5a, and its finish, and directly connecting that to the opening of 5b which is a game changer.

Chinese number puzzle in progress.

I will have a page count update when all this stuff settles out and the draft is 100 percent satisfactory for test read. (for draft; polish comes later/when the manuscript is complete).

Update today - another day finished. I had to pause to feed animals; run; dinner's in the oven, and my eyes (since 5 PM) are so strained from the screen I can barely see.

But: I have Chapter V main and the first subchapter nailed down - that's fifty pages of contiguous writing, revised and connected together. There are rough patches, yet, that need tinkering, but everything (old and new and inspired) at last lines up. It's in the barrel.

I will work on a little finessing tomorrow, and then it's straight up into the next subchapter.

Don was a white knight - he did the shopping today to refill the fridge.

I have been writing (except for animal feeding and a quick jog) nonstop since this morning.

Where am I?

Finishing the very last section of Set V.

The intensive overhaul of 75 pages is behind, now, (I was burning midnight oil for more than two weeks to get it all ironed out) and the way is clear to move forward. This section has a MAJOR surprise, brace for it…!

Page count is 332/of the material that is airtight. The major explosions (you may think there were some in the wind up, but oh man) are about to POP. Which means the opening bits are finally slotted to gether and ready to roll.

Did I ever mention I HATE the first third of a manuscript like this - ? Getting it right is a monumental, nitpicking crazy grind, but here we are.

originally posted by Danielle Tilley

Thanks for the update Janny!

I love following along and hearing your insights into how the book is being written. It makes me appreciate the end result so much more.