A big week for us as we’ve released the penultimate book of the Zero-Point Awakening series. But more about that below!
Well, Damian can hear again, so that’s all done with. He’s now grafting alongside the long-suffering Andrew to get the first draft of book eight ready. It seems like an enormous job from this end of the plank, and to be fair, it really is. But we’re going to do it and get it out in time for you.
Other than that, Damian has been daydreaming about finally moving to Ireland. And both Andrew and Damian have been looking at guitars. Andrew might even build one! (with the emphasis on might)
We think when we actually can get out and go to conventions and stuff like that, we’ll have to take some travel guitars with us.
We’ve been talking about the future quite a lot over the last week, and there’s certainly no shortage of books we want to write. So we’ll be moving on to some new projects soon, and we’ll be publishing them more quickly than you might imagine.
For anyone who would like to talk to us or get the inside scoop on what we are doing or any of the books, you can catch us pretty much any time on our discord server (https://discord.gg/uApfJhw). We are putting up more information there and having some great discussions, so join in! If you are not on discord but would like to catch up we also have a Facebook group. Come along and say hi!
In our weekly newsletter we run a lot of surveys. Last week we asked you which ZPA characters you liked the best. We thought we would share the results with you but also some of our thoughts on these characters from our perspective. Enjoy!
Damian: Elliot is where ZPA started for me. I really had no idea what I’d write until I saw the blank first page. And Elliot ending on top of the tower at Magdalen college was the first thing that came to my mind. I like Elliot because his prime moral motivation is justice, he just doesn’t start out with the wisdom to be able to be fair.
Andrew: Elliot is like a ton of TNT with a lit fuse, except that the TNT is a teenager with a sword. Elliot is searching for his place in the world and trying to come to terms with his past. He’s looking for a family, for something to hold on to. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) he runs into Arthur. Damian writes all the first drafts of Elliot, but I enjoy adding to him during the writing process.
Damian: I liked Arthur from the start. He is such a real person, living it a screwed up situation. The first scene that really drew me into him was where he drunkenly phoned his ex-wife to try and sort things out.
Andrew: Arthur is the first character I wrote for ZPA. He is what immediately came into my mind. He’s a hero. A true hero. He served in the armed forces and nearly died and he’s been through a lot. More than anyone should have to go through. For me the key to him is that he does not give up, even if he wants to. He just keeps on going because it is the right thing to do.
Damian: Gunther is an odd one. When Andrew told me about how he’d enter the story it sounded like a great idea. He also said he’d be dead by the end of the first book, but we both liked him so much that didn’t happen. Will he survive the series? You’ll have to wait and see.
Andrew: I dreamed up Gunther initially as a foil for Arthur in Splice. My plan was for him to betray Arthur (yet another time Arthur was handed a bad lot). Gunther would die by the end of book 1. That’s what I said. Yeah, I was wrong. He’s still around and more awesome than ever. Learning about his past has been an excavation worthy of an entire archaeological expedition, but it has been a fun ride so far. I foresee more in Gunther’s future. Let’s see what happens!
Damian: Haha, now we’re talking. Millicent took shape in the novelette, Siege. She found herself in a seriously messed up situation and after getting a serious head injury, somehow the alien force of the sphere healed her brain but put it in a hyper-defensive mode as a self defense mechanism. To pretty much everyone she’s a psychopath, and a smart and effective spy/assassin. I love how aggressive she is and her willingness to transgress the normal bounds of decency to get the job done.
Andrew: I first encountered Millicent the way I expect most of our readers did, in the novella Siege. Millicent is a teenager who has a lot thrown at her very quickly and due to some particularly nasty circumstances she ends up… well, cracking. What I love about her is her loyalty to Gunther and the juxtaposition of that against her willingness to do whatever it takes to get a mission done. She will kill without compunction, but she has a soft spot in her heart for the man who brought her up.
Damian: I love it when I get the chance to write Stanley. From the start I’ve seen him more as a psychologically caged in human than anything else, although one with extreme intelligence and a questioning mind. One that has no obligation to flatter or pamper anyone with even a half-truth. To me, Stanley represents the Emersonian ideals.
Andrew: Stanley is my favorite character to write. He comes from a short story I originally wrote years ago, an uplifted orangutan dealing with questions of his humanity and his intelligence and with themes of the expectations of society and humanity. When it came to ZPA, he was perfect and he’s quickly found a place in the team, bashing down doors (ripping up light posts) and generally having a great time munching on mangoes. But it is the deeper question of what makes a person human and what that means that haunts him and it has been great fun writing that.
Damian: Who doesn’t like Nel? She’s a great comedic foil for almost every other character, so it’s great to have her jumping around from time to time so she can threaten everyone with a kick in the face.
Andrew: Nel is a bit of a one-trick pony but it’s a hell of a trick and it cracks me up every time (and no, we’re not going to stop with the Nel gag. We enjoy it too much.) Nel is interesting to me because she has a background very much like Elliot. She’s a total psycho in many ways, brought up to be an assassin and trained by a curmudgeonly old woman she calls Nana. But unlike Elliot, there’s more humanity to Nel. She’s more comfortable in her skin than he is and that contrast against Elliot is infinitely fascinating to me. All of that is a long-winded way of saying that Nel is going to be kicking a lot more people in the face before this is over.
Damian: Kat has really been Elliot’s defender through most of the novels and has sat somewhat in the background as another smart resource for the team, and a romantic foil for Arthur and Millicent. But she will come into her own in the later books and second season.
Andrew: Kat is a mother (in a way) or a sister to Elliot. But can she be more? We think the answer is a resounding, Yes! So watch this space to see how Kat grows into her own in the team.
Damian: Elliot’s target for boyfriend. I think he’s been a wonderful person for Elliot to bounce of off as he’s wise and trustworthy. And also a voice outside of the team, something Elliot needs more and more as the story develops.
Andrew: I originally thought Arlo was creepy. Yes, I said it. He seemed too old to be hanging around someone as mentally undeveloped as Elliot, but he’s really grown into a friend for Elliot when he had no one else and I think that kind of mentorship is important in the world (something we as a society are lacking these days). Arlo is kind-hearted and he wants what is best for Elliot and I think it shows in how he comes across (at least I hope it does).
Damian: The thing about these characters is that they all grew in the telling. As the world developed and came into focus for us, the characters really took shape. Each of them has a unique take on the world and an inner struggle which plays throughout the series. That’s something we didn’t want to shy away from as we wrote these novels. We wanted people to relate in some way to every character, even the orangutan.
(Okay, that’s a cop out. Here are some final thoughts: We are still writing these books so these characters will continue to develop. We are also writing other pieces about their backstories and history. If there are characters you would like to learn more about, drop us a line and let us know. You never know, we might just write a story about them just for you.)
The Zero-Point Awakening series is a sci-fi action/superhero story at its heart. In the last post on this topic, Damian described the process of working through the first draft. Once that was done, that’s where I took over.
Writing Sci-Fi Action Stories – The editing Process
I’m not going to lie. It’s daunting to receive a draft of a story and be asked to edit it. Exactly what that means in the ZZ Adams process may be a little different than some other writers, so let me explain.
Since we are a writing team, one of us has to take the first cut of everything we write. We switch that around all the time, but this one was Damian’s baby (yes, I’m blaming him for that ending, but at least he didn’t just blow everyone up (spoiler alert–there are no story-ending explosions in Siege). The other person then takes that draft and works through it, adding another layer of characterization, polishing dialogue, finding typos (most of the time), and generally making it shine as much as they can. So that’s what I did.
I got to read the first draft the way most of you would have read Siege (assuming you have read it at this point and if you haven’t I highly recommend it. Siege has the origin story for Millicent Cuff, one of my favorite characters in the entire series). I started at the beginning and followed Millicent through her journey, right to the (ahem) bitter end. I did have the benefit of having read more of Millicent’s chapters from when she was older, so I was willing to forgive a lot (unlike one of our beta readers who still doesn’t like poor Millicent to this day!)
Sci-fi or Not?
Editing is a methodical process. I like to read things aloud and see how they sound. That’s my way of doing it. I mostly work on the weekends since I have a day job, so my time is limited. It means I feel a lot of pressure to get things right the first time. Luckily, Siege was very clean first draft. The only issue we had was: was it sci fi enough to represent the Zero-Point Awakening series?
I still wonder whether it has enough elements to keep sci-fi fans happy (please feel free to let us know via our contact page). But ultimately, the story has to start somewhere, and this is where Millicent’s journey began, so we had to tell it this way.
That Ending Though…
Damian handed me the draft with a warning that I wasn’t going to like the ending. He’s said above that it is an impactful ending and I think that’s right, but I do not feel (even now) that it is a frivolous one. It is the ending that Millicent needed to start her on her troubled road. A character like her needs a start just like this.
So there it is. That’s a little bit of insight into what we were thinking when we drafted and edited Siege. Let us know what you thought. Feedback like that is invaluable to writers, especially self-published ones. Without your feedback, we cannot write the stories you want to read.
I’m looking forward to being with you on this journey. We are already up to Episode Five of the series with spinoffs planned, so strap yourselves in. This is going to be a wild ride!
Siege is a sci-fi thriller. Here are some cool things we learned writing Siege, Prologue to the Zero-Point Awakening series. This is what Damian has to say about the drafting process:
Awesome learnings began with Millicent
From the start of the Zero-Point Awakening project, I knew we had to write a novelette to give to all of you wonderful subscribers. We’d just finished writing the first draft of book three when I put my hand up and said I’d write the first draft of an origin story of a character who appears for the first time in book three: Millicent Cuff.
I’m not ashamed to admit I was a little drained from writing three novels back-to-back. I got the first two chapters written over two days and then hit a wall.
Pants are optional?
The thing is, Andrew and I are both pantsers – we barely plot at all when writing a novel. It’s quite good really when combined with writing a book in partnership because it’s more like play, and neither of us knows where the story will end up. (Kudos to you if you can work it out!)
So I let it drop for a bit and got on with editing the stuff we’d already written, practically terrified of continuing with Siege, because, at that point, I couldn’t see where the story in Siege was.
Busting through walls is cool
The mistake I was making though was mostly that I wanted it to be a great read and I was trying to write perfect prose right out of the box, a really tough thing to do. Andrew spoke to me and reminded me I just needed to let the words come because, obviously, we were going to redraft and edit it.
That really helped, and by the time Gunther made a visit to Millicent’s house, I got a good idea of where things might end up.
I was still unsure at the end. All the clues I had led me to believe that it would be a very dark ending. A Titus Andronicus style ending. I’ll say no more about that, but I’m super happy with the finished first draft.
The concern I thought we might have was that it was less representative of the other books in the series than it might be – there was much less humor for sure. But as we’ve carried on writing the novels, what I’ve come to understand is we do have very dark moments where the comedy is necessarily sparse, as well as the lighter moments where we’re aiming for laughs.
All’s well that ends well?
For me, that sums up the Zero-Point Awakening series.
By the time I’d given it a redraft, I was very happy with it. There were some cool things about writing Siege that I’d learned. At that point, I handed it over to Andrew:
Watch this space for insights into our collaborative editing process. Coming up in Part 2 where we delve into the editing of a sci-fi thriller.
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