Since book 1 is now on Amazon.com – I felt a general roll up of feedback regarding what I thought about various parts was needed. If only to help keep my own memory vaguely in line. What follows is purely a vague ‘book 1’ in reflection ramble. My goal is to talk about the following items…
- Original Vision
- Changes midstream
- Vague rule reasons
- Publishing challenges
- Reviews and reader responses
Warning: Possible spoilers.
1. Original Vision (Origin backstory nonsense)
Seven months ago this story was barely a dream in my head. I started reading Royal Road (Weed / God of War) – and then went on a Lit Novel binge, eventually reaching into the depths of Royalroadl.com. This was roughly November 2014 to February 2015. My own writing was at a slump with the Royal Scales series (Such royal, much wow) and I felt unmotivated.
The more I read these other works, the more I found things that annoyed me. No deal breakers, just items I felt were missing from such a serious situation. Characters talked about all sorts of annoyance, desperate, and rage but these items rarely every impacted life outside such an ‘in depth’ game. Sword Art Online did a far better job talking about the psychological aspects of playing a game like this, but only by virtue of turning a story into a death game – which became a trope for the genre.
To be clear – the first time I have ever read a virtual reality story with the main character being trapped was Killobyte by Piers Anthony. That released in 1994, far, far ahead of SAO, Weed, and many others who have taken up banners to lead forth this genre. More importantly, this story involved characters with physical debilitations playing games to escape or regain a lost feeling – also a trope once you dive deep enough to read Royalroad’s fare.
I wanted my own character. I wanted something more than a teenager with school or money issues. I needed something that could grow and change in ways beyond levels, gear, and other factors that crop up far too often in the genre.
Grant himself didn’t really take off until halfway through book 1. I wrote a short interlude titled ‘Everyone Gets a Story’ and it was only a small part. One man facing a terrible situation – and admittedly I took an old short story from a decade ago and adapt him into a science fiction story. The original layout can be found on my RoyalRoad mirror – where the layout is still in one piece.
More important to this whole process was the concept that Grant’s journey through the room of trials and bit as William Carver originally convived as half a book. Just a small portion of a story that might be two books long.
Then I started writing, and writing, and writing. No releases happened in serial format until halfway through book 2. I had time with the character, I wrote a player who experiences something unlike any other VRMMO or LitRPG. He got to be a hero in the game and give a debilitated man a good ending. Granted this drug on further than it should have, however the characters established will come back in book 4/5…so it’s somewhat important. Oh well.
I hindsight, I feel book one was impacted by my grandfather’s passing. He was a stubborn old man as well – but he meant a lot to me. The idea that William Carver got a good send off means a lot to me in that regard. Additionally many people have stated a large feels train resulting from the end of book 1 / Carver’s passing. This leads to point two.
2. Changes midstream
Interludes were a poorly done idea originally. Short, often with little to no point. I knew they had value (or they do to me) but nothing felt right. They were being put out too often, ones that were seperate could easily be rolled together. Eventually I shoved all the ‘computer backstory’ ones into a Commencement. This worked out far better – and then I wrote the series introduction. By this revamp point I was already writing the latter half of book 2. The overplot had firm roots, and I had written down a chunk of the ending.
But I needed to work the dance aspect a bit better. Adding terms like commencement, interlude, and conclude felt far more in line. Even the session names instead of chapters felt right for a man trying to recover. Much like the game was therapy in a sense – given James and how he acts it really is forcing the character to grow.
I feel that’s a huge factor missing from most online serials using the VR aspect – character growth. Levels are not growth, it’s progress but not growth. The problem is Grant started off a bit too mopey – justifiably in my mind – but it’s hurt the story pace. Lesson learned – but the story is set at this point.
Xin however was a surprising aspect. I had originally just intended to have her be a loss and life would go on. As Grant and the AI’s backstory and current goals evolved she became more of a feature. In my mind the original moment of dancing would have just been a ploy by the Voices to test Grant as a person and establish stats. Breaking away from standard character creation to go through a unique process.
In the end none of it stayed as simple as my mind thought it should be. Rules in the game and for the AI’s changed things a bit. I have this big pile of notes explaining how those rules go, which brings me to point three.
3. Vague rule reasons
Grant himself doesn’t care too much about the game rules. He does do accounting, he does understand numbers and such, but it’s not who his character is at the point. Therefore in a first person story we wouldn’t see or pay attention to much of the ‘game world’ settings. Liz on the other hand would be all over the rules. We learn early on that she’s even applying science classes to in-game abilities with explosive results. That’s her play style.
Grant just wanted to be something else, to feel something else aside from his own life. A distraction – much how he had existed for almost a year by grinding out work jobs without real focus.
He does pay attention to neater things. Unique gear or strange abilities. Nearly all boxes cited in the starting room of trials will play a role later in the series – but beyond that I don’t highlight everything. It’s too much text, too much removal from the character personality. I could say that he learned a swimming skill, I could say that he lost some [Finess] at the start from being poor with weapons and accidently stabbing himself. I could say that when he did the king’s taste tester people yelled at him a lot about his failures and he gained / lost stats from that. Doing so seems like overkill.
Eventually, more game rules will be cited, near the end of book four when the world setting goes through serious upheaval. We’re not there yet.
Part of my vagueness has to do with the machine AI’s and some of their reasoning. After all, the public ban on speaking of Continue Online in the real world was decided by Mother and the Voices. (Not publicly advertised, yet) – and part of this is because of what their overall goal is. They have a purpose, which we’ve seen breadcrumbs of in book one, more in two, and by the end of three I’ll dump out half a loaf for the
baby birds readers. Some people have made educated guesses based on book two content, but I’ll save that blurb for another day.
4. Publishing Challenges
Publishing has always been a dream. Not a very real one. Just a quiet issue I shoved away when turning fifteen and pretending I too could be a great writer. Self-publishing changed the possibility and made it just a matter of risking myself. As I wrote book one part of me was unsure how to handle it. Do I just write out a book and throw in on Amazon.com? Do I just wait until I’m done with everything and throw it out?
In the end I decided on a WordPress and putting it on Royal Road. Both were intended to test the waters with my story, brave public opinion, and build a small fanbase – people who might eventually buy a published copy of the same material.
Editing was a huge hurdle, for me and the wife. She did the bulk of the work, but any mistakes are wholly my own.
I worried constantly over the graphs and boxes. They still look bad at the most zoomed in settings – but on most devices they work fine. Once uploaded I found later problems with Carver’s Journal entries. They were somehow showing outside the book borders – which explains the giant blank spaces. *sigh* /sob /me activates emo mode.
My cover has been so far the most expensive item of the whole process. I rather like the new one, but I’m leaving it to the Amazon release only. It’s currently the only thing unique to the published version aside from further editing passes.
Originally I held a hope of doing a bonus chapter or two for side characters, some sort story – and eventually this will be added. My current vague plan is to do one for each of the four side characters (Aweoms Jr., HotPants, Shadow, and SweetPea). Once added I’ll let people know, surely.
5. Reviews and reader responses
This part is where I start listing things that surprise me. My first two chapters went up one night, and there was an advanced review on Royal Road right away. This stunned me, that anyone had read it so quickly and threw out their opinion. I became obsessed with pressing the F5 button and going forward from there.
My responses were basically in two camps. The first group found the story amazingly different and enjoyed the situation being portrayed.
The second group found the story too slow – and indeed it was paced poorly for a serial style release. (I’ve learned since then, I think) – but their opinions aren’t wrong, it just hurts. William Carver’s entire arc ends on such an awesome note that I feel it’s a fantastic portion and story with that alone. Yet those who drop it, often do so halfway through book one, when the main character is barely through his trial and character creation.
A little over halfway through book one Tempest of MageLife picked up the story. I didn’t really pay attention to the names of people doing reviews, but instead saw redirects to my WordPress. To be clear, I had read parts of MageLife and was mostly impressed with seeing anyone do serials and publish. Getting hits from there confused and amazed me. We’ve talked a lot since then, but I remember a sense of awe that another writer who had put their book out into the world actually noticed me.
Since then I had mentions on the Space Battle’s forum twice – both unexpected. Giant in the Playground, DarkLordPotter, and probably other places that went to RoyalRoad and I can’t track. Even now someone is kind enough to put notices up to Reddit now and then for me. Each one of those is both confusing and pleasing and sometimes hurtful. Everyone seems to dislike the drag to Carver’s arc, and people seem generally impressed with it’s ending (those that make it…) – lesson learned. That’s all I can say at this point.
So it goes.
Oh well. I’ll leave it at that. Night folks.
|Back to Rambles|