As part of the Magic Appreciation Tour (fantasy lovers be sure to check it out--see badge on sidebar), I'd like to welcome Mark Tierno, who has written an EPIC series called Maldene. Learn how he wrote through some dark days and developed a routine that works...enough for him to write an incredible 5.2 million words and 13 books! Read on and show some love, peeps!
Inspiration Despite the OddsSo, I'm writing on how to write, on what inspires me and keeps me going. To talk about that, means talking about that which I write, for in there lies the source of inspiration.
My series is called "Maldene", and is something I had been cobbling together in my head for about 15 years before I finally started writing it down. Now, for years things around the house had gone from bad to miserable, due in a very great part to the fact that my Dad got Parkinson's Disease. Money was short, I couldn't pass a job interview if my life depended on it, and that's even if I had time away from helping my Mom out. Fantasy was my only escape, and while I knew at some time I wanted to write this massive epic I'd been developing, I knew I could never do it by hand or with a standard typewriter.
Then my grandpa's old house burned down in the Eaton Canyon Fire. He'd been dead a long time, and it was a sad event indeed, but it brought in insurance money, which meant I could buy a computer with a word processor. It also meant I had some time and got to start on my epic. The act of seeing me work on it brought a new positive attitude into the house, and what I still consider an unwittingly funny statement by my Dad; he went from "when are you going to get a job?" to "When are you going to get published?" I found out years later that in his youth he wanted to be a writer, so that explains the eager support from both of my parents.
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Anyway, so I finally got to start on Maldene. Just the idea of it was enough to inspire me, dredge up that eager enthusiasm required to launch into an epic that I had already estimated would be of an unheard of size. Just one problem, and that is how to start it off. Back in grade-school I always had trouble starting an essay. I solved my problem by simply launching into the middle of the action. A storm at sea, they're on a ship, and we start by making one of the characters start his own diary. Diary solves how to quickly sum up any needed background info just before the first piece of action hits. It works!
From there it was book after book. I taught myself how to write. My degree was in Physics, not literature, but I'd been reading SF, Fantasy, and Adventure since I was about 6. The first book took me 9 months, as I hadn't developed my full schedule yet, and kept going back and fixing things every time I had a better idea on how to do something. That first Maldene book came out to around 330,000 words. After that it became easier, though each book had its own challenges. Eventually I got it down to doing a 350,000 word book in three months. Of course, needing to be around all day to help out with my Dad made it easier to put in an 8-10 hour day, not counting editing at night.
Now the question is, how do I keep it up that long? How to I average 1500 words an hour for 8-10 hours without going nuts? For me it's music. Stack a bunch of soundtracks onto my stereo, put on some John Williams and James Horner, and I'm good to go. Then throw in my enthusiasm for the story, my eagerness to see myself how it comes out, and I'm like a demon possessed. I went through three keyboards and two motherboards typing up the Maldene series. Thirteen huge books over 8 years (I took most summers off), and never once did I suffer that dreaded writer's block.
So, my secrets to launching into a 5.2 million word epic and keeping it going? Music is one of them. Outlining it another. I may change a lot in the middle, add in characters and subplots, but before I start writing, I make sure to outline the book first. I know where it starts and where it ends. Next I use a database; great way to keep all the details of characters consistent, to call up whatever I may need in the way of incidental descriptions. I stat up whatever characters I know I'll need into my database before each book. All the prep-work done, when I finally do start the actual writing, I have my story outline and characters ready to go, and the music to keep me going.
Of course, it is important to remember that the brain doing all this is hooked up to a support system called the body. As such, part of my daily writing routine is, after I end my day's writing (start at 7:30 AM, end at 4-6PM), I go to the health club. Keep the body in shape so the brain can think clearly. Then after I'm back I start editing what I wrote that day during dinner. It was the first couple of years before I settled into my current writing schedule, but I find it works. I also find a need to turn the phone off from time to time. While writing, my mind is working on several things at once: the current sentence, the next paragraph, the elements of that entire chapter, as well as portions of my mind dedicated to thinking like each of the characters I'm writing about, enabling me to switch personas as quickly as I can hit the "RETURN" key. With such focus required, hearing a phone ring is like jolting a sleep walker awake with a bullhorn. My friends now know to leave me well enough alone when I'm working on a book, or suffer my impatient scream in their ears.
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But I guess my biggest secret for keeping such a rigid schedule going is the enthusiasm. I am just so eager to see how it all comes out, what the characters will do, how the villain will spoil their plans. I am as eager to read what comes out of my head as anyone around. If you don't love what you write, if it's a chore to continue writing in a given genre, then find something else, find a different genre to write in. If you aren't having fun then neither will the reader.
At this point you've noticed that I said 13 books and 5.2 million words, and are wondering where does it all come from? The entire Maldene series has around 250 characters in total, so I must have some system for thinking up names, right? Well, here is where the imagination comes from and I'm afraid there's not a creative writing course in the world that can teach that. You can, however, learn to stretch your imagination, to give it a work out like any other muscle. Part of this is not just letting your mind wander, but knowing HOW to let your mind wander. Hop on a bicycle and explore your city with an open eye and inquiring mind. Don't just see the trees, the cars, the people, but notice the details, mull them around in your mind and twist them about. For instance; I was biking up a local street called "Myrtle Ave.", thinking up how to add more words to the Maldene dictionary, or more Maldene-sounding names. A bit of daydreaming led me to see that if you pronounced the "y" in Myrtle long like you think it might, then it would be "Meertle", then you could swap the order of the syllables to get "Tl-Meer". A bit of clean up and T'lmyr became the name of one of the characters for Book 11. It's all about keeping an alert eye, open mind, and removing any and all limits upon your thinking. This is fantasy, after all.
And in the way of removing limits, let me end with this. Maldene starts off as pure fantasy, but as the plot develops in later books, I blend in some major Science-Fiction elements as well. Who says you can't do both? I'm told by a few very select beta-readers that it came out rather well.
If you want to find out more of what madness comes out of my head, then you can always visit me at www.maldene.com.
Mark lives in his home town of Monrovia California, the recipient of a Masters in Physics and a second degree in Math, and a lifelong reader of fantasy and SciFi. Having spent most of his adult life helping his Mom out with his Parkinson’s Disease stricken Father, then later caring for her in turn, the only thing that maintained his sanity was discovering his talent and love for writing. A talent that both parents were at least as pleased in seeing him practice to their literal dying days. Maldene is the first book in a series that will redefine the word Epic.
Find out more about Mark at his website: www.maldene.com
Maldene Fan page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Maldene-Fan-Page/117102904979088
Maldene FB Group page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/208436755919482/
My Space: http://www.myspace.com/markanthonytierno