Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Words, Words, Words

When I began writing my first book, I planned to weave an epic saga, entrenched in a world with a storied history. I assumed that many thousands of words were required for such a reading experience. A lot of words in a novel would be a good thing, right? I had a lot to learn.
When I completed my first draft, The Buried Symbol had over 132K words. I was sure that I had the makings of a novel that everyone would love. In September of 2015, I began submitting query letters with sample chapters to literary agents. Soon after, rejections began landing in my lap. Not to be discouraged, I sent out more letters, usually having about fifteen submissions in play at a time. Rejections would bounce back anywhere from two days to four months later. Some agents never responded at all.
After receiving about a dozen rejections, one kind agent noted that my book was a bit heavy on words, suggesting that I trim back my novel to make it more efficient. Yes, famous authors like Stephen King release books with FAR more words than I had, but I’m not Stephen King. I’m not a well-known novelist who has fans waiting for my next tale to appear at Barnes and Noble. This agent recommended that I try to get close to 100k words to make my book more marketable and to appear more approachable.
I then put my book on a word loss diet. If you don’t know that that is, look it up. After a series of edits, I had it trimmed it down to 110K words. Feeling good, I pushed out more queries, not just to agents, but also began to approach indie publishers. Of course, I continued to receive rejections, but they came with comments and SOME level of interest. I was onto something.
Deciding I wasn’t done, I began pouring through the book with more edits, resulting in a word count below 105k words. Again, I submitted to agents and publishers. After more than thirty rejections over a five-month period, I finally received a contract offer. I soon signed the contract and was on my way to becoming a published author.
Of course, my work on The Buried Symbol wasn’t finished. I hired an editor and made additional changes. My publisher offered further suggestions, and the edits continued. My novel is now far tighter, landing at about 102K words. Somehow, I had shaved over 30,000 words without changing the story, reducing character depth, or affecting the vibrancy of the world that I had created.
As a creative art, storytelling was the part of writing that I felt strong about when I began. However, writing is more than just storytelling. The art of writing fiction lies not in just the story you tell or how you tell it, but also lies in making it compelling while using the fewest words possible.

For more information about Jeffrey L Kohanek and his books, visit 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Reality of Fantasy

As book genres go, Fantasy has been stereotyped and misunderstood more than most. Some readers dismiss it as pointless dribble, with little to offer to them or to the literary community at large. Many hear the term Fantasy and assume that the work is filled with fire-breathing dragons and wizards with pointed hats.
So what defines the Fantasy genre? Here is a generic definition:
Fantasy is a genre of fiction that uses magic or other supernatural elements as a main plot element, theme, or setting.
If the story revolves around elements that are deemed supernatural by the reality that we know, it's considered Fantasy. If you think that you’d never be interested in something like that, you should stop watching The Walking Dead. Until you can prove to me that zombies exist, you’re hooked on a Fantasy TV series.
This begins to show the breadth that the genre now encompasses. Yes, you will still find Tolkienesque books that are filled with dragons, wizards, elves, and other elements that fit the stereotype. However, you also can find Contemporary Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and others. The most classic sub-genre is High Fantasy, which takes the reader into another world, often one of incredible depth and complexities. Taking it a step further, the author can add Epic Fantasy plot-lines, which place the protagonists in the midst of a struggle that has world-changing repercussions. The Lord of the Rings is the best-known example of a High Fantasy tale with Epic scope.
While my books veer in the direction of High Fantasy, I strive to ground them with a sense of familiarity in hopes of making the story approachable and the world believable. However, the background behind this approach will have to wait for a future blog post.
Fantasy has emerged from the dark corner your local bookstore, moving into mainstream thanks to the geek expansion into pop culture. The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Divergent, The Lord of the Rings, and just about every Marvel movie that exists are on-screen representations of the genre and attract fans by the millions. If you’ve enjoyed watching any of those titles, or anything similar, perhaps it’s time for you to set your mystery or thriller novels aside and consider dipping your toe into a new pool. All I ask is that you investigate some popular titles in the genre, check out some reviews, and consider each book by the context of the story, not by the genre that defines it.

For more information about Jeffrey L Kohanek and his books, visit 

Friday, March 11, 2016

How it all began

I have a confession to make. I’m not a writer…at least, not in the traditional sense. I’m not blessed with the poetic prose of an English major, nor am I distinguished with a degree in Journalism. Sure, I took creative and technical writing courses in college, but that was long ago and my degree is in Engineering.
A desire to create was one of the factors that led me toward Engineering as my major, but after a few years in the workplace, I found that my ability to create in that role was far too stifled. I then took some Marketing and Business courses and made a job change to Product Management.
If you aren’t sure what Product Managers do, you’re not alone. In essence, their job is to analyze a market, determine unmet needs, and define a product that meets those needs. They then work with other organizations to develop those products and bring them to market. The Product Manager owns all aspects of the product. That includes the creation of the tools required to promote and sell the product, making it the position a hybrid of technical and marketing expertise. I’ve been in this type of role for fifteen years, which has satisfied my creative side in some ways but still lack in others.
After years of consideration, I became serious about writing a novel in the summer of 2014. By August, I had begun to record ideas, forming an outline for not just a single book, but for an epic trilogy. Over the next twelve months, I wrote and wrote. When August 2015 came around, I had completed my first book and found that I was addicted, not to just writing, but to the world and characters I had created. I was so hooked that I continued to write, completing a draft of the second book three months later, while I was still seeking a publisher for my first book.
What began as a simple desire to create has now become my passion. Writing is what I really want to do for the next few decades. Much like with my children, who will soon leave the nest, I feel an overwhelming need to shape and cultivate my books, characters, and the world they live in. I have a desire to share my creations with others, watching them blossom into what I’ve been dreaming they can be. My hope is that the stories I weave will entertain and inspire people across the world, well after I am gone.

For more information about Jeffrey L Kohanek and his books, visit