Fiction Unboxed & The Dream Engine

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I read two books. Gasp! No way.

Seriously though, I read two books at the same time, which I’ve done before, but these books are related. And not in a series sort of way. One is Fiction, the other Non-Fiction. What they have in common is their authors, and the goal of one is to explain the existence of the other.

            Huh?

Let me explain. Fiction Unboxed, which I will now refer to as Unboxed (because I can’t call it FU), is a book documenting the journey of two authors (sort of three) who wrote and published a novel, in 30 days, from scratch, in front of the world. (Just look, it’s written on the cover.)

These guys thought, hey writing isn’t hard enough as it is, let’s let people peep over our shoulders while we write our initial garbage. (Because we all know that rough drafts are a pile of… and if you didn’t know, now you do! Even the greats claim their rough drafts are bad.)

But then they said, hey! Let’s see if we can get them to pay us for the privilege to peep. That’s a small bit of exaggeration, but that’s honestly the gist of it. That and the fact that they did it to show people that you can indeed tell a good story, even if it looks hard, and things don’t fit, and your words are wrong, and you have. no. idea. what. you’re. doing.

This idea behind Unboxed spawned not only one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns ever, but it unleashed a pretty awesome book into the world.

The Dream Engine, an awesome YA steampunk fantasy, is the literary love child of this meeting of the minds between business partners/publishers/writers Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant (along with some gruff imput from David Wright). -Stay tuned for a brief spoiler free review of the novel! -

These guys launched a funding campaign that was highly successful and sat their butts down, and wrote a story in one month, while their followers watched them do it. Their fans saw it all, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Initially, I bought the Unboxed book because as a writer, I know I know I have much to learn. I thought, cool. They’ll show me their process step by step and I’ll learn something new. Obviously, that happened. But as they wrote, they warned that there were massive spoilers ahead (as in every single major thing that happens in the entire book). I thought, fine, I’m just here to learn, I don’t need to buy another book. (In retrospect I’m laughing at myself that I ever even tried to resist buying the book.)

The first spoiler rolled out and I nearly threw Unboxed across the room to avoid searing my eyes with any more spoilers, and promptly ordered The Dream Engine straight to my kindle. And devoured it immediately.

I’m not going to lie, I didn’t expect to love the story. I just thought it was a pretty cool idea that I might not hate. But I did. I loved it.

Here’s where I’m going to review The Dream Engine. I promise, its major spoiler free. Because I hate spoilers. After that I’m going to jump back to more explanation of Unboxed.

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Eila Doyle is a fifteen-year-old girl just entering the workforce as a Builder, a prestigious job she is proud to uphold just like her father. Just one problem, Eila is having disturbing visions. She shouldn’t have dreams, at least not on her own. Building is quite simply being hooked up to the giant engine called the Blunderbuss, much like the Matrix, and building things it tells her and the team she works with in the Ministry of Manifestation. While hooked up to this machine, she and other builders can “dream” items and then build them in the physical world.

Disturbed by the non-plugged in visions she shouldn’t be having… the real dreams that the drug called Crumble, the drug everyone takes and has always taken, should be blocking… Eila is thrust into a world that she never knew existed.

Having her own Alice in Wonderland type experience, she tumbles down the veritable rabbit hole, following her less than white rabbit, Levi Meade, the handsome, grimy stranger who appears in her dreams. Down the rabbit hole is quite simply under the city of Waldron’s Gate that Eila calls home. There she discovers a whole new world rife with disturbing truths about herself and the world she has always known… or thought she knew. This in turn forces her to decide. What is real? And what is not? And more importantly. What is she going to do about it?

Filled with all the steampunk goodness you’d expect, amazing steam carnival rides and goggles and leather along with the giant steam engine they use to “dream” items into existence. Sounds cool? Well then, why don’t we weave in some glorious fantasy, complete with dragons!

Now I’m going to quit gushing and say what I didn’t care for. There were a handful of typos. Now, I understand that writers are indeed human, as I am one. And we do, from time to time, make errors. (Say it isn’t so!) This was a minor disturbance for me seeing as how I knew how quickly they had written this book.

The other thing(s), were the side characters felt a bit underdeveloped for my taste. I had a difficult time investing emotionally in a few of them, while also drawn to others, but without a finger to put on why. This again, was minor for me. Considering their breakneck writing pace. A setback I’m hoping they’ll rectify in the sequels. Which I will be buying.

All in all, I have read far worse books that have taken people years to write. I understand this was a meeting of two minds working in tandem, that had worked well (and frequently) together in the past. But they had never done this. A whole book, start to finish, in 30 days.

They didn’t just write it, they edited it, polished it, fixed errors, tweaked, added back story and world building, and promoted the book, then published it. IN. 30. FREAKING. DAYS. That’s nothing to shake a stick at.

Reading Unboxed after The Dream Engine was so much fun. Much like opening a grandfather clock to see how it works.  You love the clock, it tells the time, looks magnificent and makes a rather beautiful resonating and warming sound (unless you’re home alone at midnight) … but you’d kinda like to see the cogs move and see how it all works together. This may be a poor metaphor but in my head it works well.

The authors went day by day and worked out what came to them on each day, what they did, why it worked. Or didn’t work. Because, though these guys have written lots of books, they don’t have it all perfect. And they’re the first to say so.

My favorite thing about Fiction Unboxed (other than the fact that it introduced me into a new fantasy world that I can’t wait to read more in), was the fact that they gave actionable steps at the end of each chapter. They slogged through their wordiness, and parsed out the BS into bullet points. Things that you should take away from this chapter if you learned nothing else. And then something to DO.

Because that’s really what the most important part of why they did all this. Is because it was a challenge, yes. Because it was something new, yes. Because they wanted to shed some light on the subject, create an internship of sorts, and do something no one else had done yet… yes on all three counts.

But most of all, because it’s most important to just write.
Listen to yourself, not the voice of resistance and doubt. Listen to yourself,
not the voice of procrastination. And when in doubt, get started.

 

And because they wanted to teach and encourage others to not be afraid, to realize that writers block, or really any obstacle you encounter, can be beaten. So long as we stop taking the Crumble-esque self-doubt drug and “summon the stones to get started” because there is magic in the written word.

 

There is magic there, but it’s an accessible magic- one all of us,
with practice and patience, can learn to find.

If I totally sold you on these books you can buy them on Amazon.com. Fiction Unboxed. The Dream Engine.

(Disclaimer: I was not paid to promote these books, these are simply my opinions and I loved them enough to refer them to you!)