Emergent Thoughts, Or What I Learned About Writing While Writing EMERGENCE

Emergence finally released this week, and it's looking like my hard work has paid off! The book is currently ranking near the top of the charts in Amazon's Sci-Fi > Cyberpunk category, as well as that category's Hot New Releases chart. To say I'm thrilled is a bit of an understatement! But, man, getting to this release week? It's been a bit of a slog. A good slog, but a slog nonetheless.

Now that I've come out on the other side of another finished product, here's some random thoughts on the book, in no particular order.

writing1. Writing a sequel is fun!

Your mileage may vary. For me, writing was Emergence was, mostly, a lot of joy. This is a story I had in mind for quite a while, and one that, in order to get to, I had to write Convergence first. That book lays the basic groundwork for a lot of the things that happen in Emergence and sets up the characters. In Emergence, I'm able to take those characters and knock them around, manipulate them, leave them bruised and bloodied in a way that I couldn't necessarily do in Book 1. Book 2 is where I get to go apeshit on everybody.

Emergence is also a lot more action-oriented, and the stakes are larger and more personal. I also wrote this one as more of a chase thriller, so it's got a little bit of a different feel than the prior entry. It's sort of like the Alien/Aliens dynamic to the sequel framework, and I wanted to push these characters into harsher directions with big, hard-hitting impacts.

2. Control Your Authorial Voice.

Every writer puts a bit of themselves into their characters, or puts pieces of themselves on the page (hopefully not literally). So while writing this book was fun, I also couldn't get too comfortable, and I had to rein in a lot of my own influences that got laid down on the pages and in the character because those words weren't necessarily true to the characters themselves. Sometimes my own personality worked its way into the story or thoughts of the leads, and it was a bit of corrupting influence.

When Emergence went through developmental edits, my editor, Laura, pointed out something to me that took me by a bit of a surprise. There's a scene in the book where Mesa is going through a seedier part of Nevada, populated by gamblers and hookers, and she remarked that she could practically hear the crotch crickets. Laura noted, rightly, that isn't really something that Mesa would say or think. It's the kind of off-hand remark I might make, though. But not Mesa.

A little too much of me bled through. Yeah, I made Mesa, but she's become very much her own person, separate from me, in my own mind. And while she can be foul-mouthed at times, I'm not so sure that she's so blatantly vulgar.

So, there were a few instances where I needed to reign in my own peculiarities as an individual who was writing, and let the characters talk for themselves.

3. Writing Is Learning

Seems a bit like a given, but let me elaborate a little.

There's certain rules to writing - things like tense shift and maintaining point of view. Convergence was a first-person work, and in that first draft I shit all over things like keeping it directed in first-person. Thus, there was a good amount of heavy lifting when it came time to edit. The editing experience with that book also gave me a huge list of no-no's and things to avoid - phrases like "it was" or a list of crutch words, such as "like" or "just," two massive crutch-words in my first drafts.

The editing process in Book 1, taken as a whole, paid off a lot when I was ready to get to work on draft two of Book 2. I could let the first draft be bad, because the writing was the most important part; just getting the work done was my primary focus. When it came time to edit, though, I felt a step ahead of the game, having gotten schooled on the ins and outs of content edits the prior time around. I was able to rewrite more effectively before the manuscript was sent off to my editors, which made their feedback all the more critical and necessary. I wasn't hampering them with petty stuff, and they were able to focus on and scrutinize the more important things, like structure and content, and it helped make the line edits stronger.

4. Stick The Landing

Endings are important. Some books just kind of fizzle out, or come to an abrupt ending. In the first draft of Emergence, I really rushed the ending, which was stupid. It needed to have a proper come-down and a fitting resolution to what had come before.

Laura smartly suggested that I take the dual concepts that had formed the original ending and elaborate on them, giving them each their own chapter. And she was dead-on correct. The new finale is so much stronger, and such a better fit to the book itself. I'm really proud of how well this revision worked, and it prompted me to introduce a new character that could potentially have an impact once the dust settles a bit more and I start working on book 3.

5. Diversify!

While Emergence is book 2 in a series, one of the most crucial things I've done over the last year is getting involved with other projects. Writing, and the entire process that goes along with it on that path to publication, is time-consuming. Saying no to things - even beneficial things - can be awfully tempting. Let me tell you, though, that saying "yes" can be even far more rewarding.

The DRMR series is likely going to be the backbone of my early career, but I also want to have a number of other, smaller, strong works out there. The key to that is to dabble in other projects and dip your toes into unfamiliar waters.

When Lucas Bale approached me to take part in the No Way Home anthology that he was curating, saying yes was a no-brainer. I was enjoying Bale's solo work and when I got word of what he was intending with the collection, I knew I had to take part. My story was a bit risky and has been largely well-received, if not a touch controversial given the current political winds in America. Taking part in Bale's second curation, due out later this year, was an obvious and easy choice.

Last month I was invited to take part in another anthology, this time revolving around urban fantasy. I had a great idea for it, but unfortunately I absolutely did have to say no due to saying yes for another project - writing a book for the Apocalypse Weird series (you can read my announcement on that here).

The key, I think, is to make your name visible across a few different platforms and try to hook in various readers through a number of quality projects.

This is also important because it helps keep me from getting burnt out on writing the same characters in the same series time and time again. I need to do some non-series work in order to dive back into the DRMR books fully refreshed and recharged. And hopefully you, and plenty of others, will join me in these other adventures!


EMERGENCE eBook Launch Special: 
  1. Buy CONVERGENCE (A DRMR Novel, Book 1) FOR FREE. amzn.to/1E2ZphG
  2. Buy EMERGENCE (A DRMR Novel, Book 2) for 99c: amzn.to/1GDsFx8
Offer valid Mon., May 4 thru Fri., May 8. Normal price for each title is $3.99

Michael Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.


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