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NEW YEAR, NEW ART

If you haven’t checked in on the rest of this website lately, you’re in for a treat. Thanks to Midjourney and Photoshop, I’ve just completed a TOTAL VISUAL REBOOT of Arlam Online. Every single webpage now features custom artwork depicting scenes from A Sea Sought in Song.

As a writer, it’s so difficult for me to convey the contents of a 400-page novel—let alone a 1,500-page series—in any other medium, because half the joy is in the reading journey. Disparate snippets of text simply can’t encapsulate the experience of immersion you get from an actual live novel. But good illustration really can transmit a vibe.

So go ahead: click around the site and feast your eyes!

STRUCTURE STRICTURE

As I continue roughing out the overall shape of Book 4, I thought I’d reflect on the high-level structure of the first three installments in “Seed of Glory Sown in Sorrow.” Here are their respective tables of contents, side by side:

I approach narrative structure the same way I approach poetry: I want it to rhyme. It pleases me to pull back from the grit and grime of scene-level trenches and see them as but components of a greater and more beautiful whole. It’s my imprint, my signature as the storyteller.

So. Each novel begins with an Epigraph: a five-stanza poem which immediately sets the mood—priming readers for what’s to come, and persuading them to take it seriously (I put effort into this, dangit! it’s more than a dimestore pulp!). Book 1’s epigraph, which you can read right here right now(!), is a series of quatrains in trochaic tetrameter, but the other epigraphs vary in their poetic structure. (Deep lore: the novels’ titles are taken, respectively, from each of the lines in the opening stanza of Book 4’s Epigraph.)

Next is the Prologue. This is a short, punchy passage—untethered from the subsequent timeline—to whet the appetite and establish vital context.

Now we get into the story proper. Each novel contains sixteen chapters (2×8, 8 being a divine number in Arlam) divided into two parts, with an Overture at the head of Part One, and a Cadenza at the head of Part Two. Each chapter title is comprised of a representative word or phrase lifted directly from the given chapter’s text.

As its name implies, the Overture introduces us to the novel’s major themes in microcosm, encapsulating the book as a whole. It’s a “flashback” which explores some significant event from a main character’s past. Most importantly, it’s packed with action. I view the Overture as a pre-credits sequence in a Bond film: a mini-movie, largely self-contained, which comes out of the gate with a bang. Both of the chapters that received Honorable Mentions at the Writers of the Future contest were Overtures (for Books 1 & 2).

“Cadenza” is another musical term. It means “a virtuoso solo passage inserted into a movement in a concerto or other work,” and that’s precisely the function it serves here. Like the Interludes in Sanderson’s “Stormlight Archive” novels, my Cadenzas serve as palate-cleansers which allow me to showcase alternate perspectives on current events. The difference is, they always give you the enemy perspective. And because my enemies are all insanely dedicated and freakishly effective, it really does feel like a “virtuoso solo passage” every time we cut to their POV.

Finally, we come to the Epilogue. No carefree breather, this: it’s the springboard which propels you into the next installment. I don’t let readers off the hook until the final page of Book 4. Like Rothfuss in his “Kingkiller Chronicle,” I’ve nested the main action within a separate frame. He achieves this via a story-within-a-story, and the power of memory to shape the present. I achieve it via temporal distortion, and the power of relativity to heal wounds which otherwise would’ve festered too late. My Epilogues are there to remind you of what’s really going on behind the spacetime curtain.

Rather than crimping my style, these structural strictures empower me to make sense on a meta-level. Like poetry itself, storytelling requires form in order to achieve its fullest aesthetic flowering. Unlike chaos, order makes nothing dull; it imbues a work with beauty no matter how far back you stand.

Certified Honorable

Look what arrived in the mail! The 4th quarter ‘22 certificate ain’t as flashy as the 1st quarter ‘19 one, but they both carry the same weight.

Thus far, only two chapters in the “Seed of Glory Sown in Sorrow” saga—Book 1’s Overture (Ilina’s signature flashback) and Book 2’s Overture (Hugh’s signature flashback)—can survive extraction from their narrative context. I submitted both of them to the Writers of the Future contest, and am batting 1.00 for WOTF Honorable Mentions.

In the event I write another submittable chapter and my series still hasn’t been published (WOTF excludes professional authors), I’ll submit again. Till then, I’m sitting pretty at 100% honorability.

And remember: neither of these honorably-mentioned chapters were written with a contest in mind. Aside from their self-contained structure, there’s nothing unique about them. They’re simply representative excerpts from a much larger narrative with proportionately-vaster thrills, pathos, and payoffs.

Yes, it’s printed on real paper.

BOOK 3: DONE

The third novel in the “Seed of Glory Sown in Sorrow” saga stands completed. A five-year journey has reached its end, and that end is spectacular.

I’m very proud of this installment. With the plot of a spy thriller, the vistas of a travelogue, the action of an Arabian-Nights-meets-Cold-War swashbuckler, and a climax as frenetically involved and emotionally wrenching as anything Sanderson has ever written, Loose the Sealed Tongue takes its place as a unique and crucial volume in the tale of Hugh Conrad and Ilina Lightkeeper’s struggle to reconquer Arlam.

Here’s the story so far:

  • Book 1, A Sea Sought in Song — 116,559 words (~389 pages)
  • Book 2, Wrath and Crimson Rime — 101,753 words (~339 pages)
  • Book 3, Loose the Sealed Tongue — 121,434 words (~405 pages)

The fourth novel—Bind the Tree of Time—will be the last. As of this moment, the epic saga is 3/4 finished with a running total of 339,746 words, or approximately 1,132 pages.

The outline I made on September 13th—103 days ago—encompassed six chapters: the bulk of the novel’s second half (aside from the entr’acte Cadenza and the ending Epilogue, which I’d already written). I largely adhered to this structure, although I ended up eliding/combining some scenes and adding additional ones as the need arose. It’s interesting to review the analytics:

  • Chapter 11 — 9 scenes outlined — 11,141 actual words
  • Chapter 12 — 11 scenes outlined — 8,940 actual words
  • Chapter 13 — 8 scenes outlined — 3,520 actual words
  • Chapter 14 — 10 scenes outlined — 3,571 actual words
  • Chapter 15 — 26 scenes outlined — 7,105 actual words
  • Chapter 16 — 5 scenes outlined — 1,405 actual words

The final installment will take a while to arrive. In the meantime, I’ll be doing everything in my power to get the dang series published, God willing.

I can’t wait for you to sink your teeth into this thing.