Archive for March, 2010

I’m stuck in revision purgatory at the moment.  I’m trying to do the first revision of DREAMER’S ROSE, a novel that almost fought me to a standstill in the first draft.  I’m also making revisions to THE IGNORED PROPHECY and bracing myself for rewrites of the beginning of THE IGNORED PROPHECY and a large section of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE. 

So, since I don’t have anything fascinating to blog about right now, I’ve added another new character to the Characters page.  This time, it’s the bad guy, Zobran.

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Instead of a new blog post today, I’ve added some new material to the other pages. 

Check out the Characers page for a new character (on the blog). Rolf from BLOOD WILL TELL. 

And there’s a new page, Worlds, where you’ll find a deleted scene from BLOOD WILL TELL that gives some insight into the relationship between Chimeria and our own world.


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A little status first:  Over the last few days, I have cut 7,000 actual words from THE SHAMAN’S CURSE.  With that, and the previous cuts, the manuscript has gone from 113,000 calculated words (at 250 words per page) to 101,000.  My goal is to get it under 100,000 words, so I’m getting close.  I left 3 scenes that I had marked for possible deletion.  I decided they were doing work that I actually needed and if I cut them, I’d just have to write something else to replace them.  I may still do that, or I may trim these scenes, or I may leave them as they are.  I also marked another 800 words to consider deleting on the next pass through.

I’ve also spent a little time working on the query for BLOOD WILL TELL.  March is ticking away and it’s time to push this baby out of the nest and find out if it can fly. 

Here’s a portion of the query in it’s current form (subject to change without notice):

Valeriah is half werewolf, unable to take wolf form, but still inconveniently driven by the full moon.  She uses her werewolf strength and instincts as bodyguard for the elite and powerful of Chimeria, a world where magic takes the place of technology and the varied magical races vie for the power once held by the dragons.

When an unknown enemy tries to kill her cousin Crystal, Valeriah steps in to protect her.  Forced onto the defensive because she doesn’t know who wants Crystal dead, or why, Valeriah accepts assistance from Rolf, a stranger who has helped save Crystal once already.  However, she suspects that he has his own reasons for being interested in the women and their inheritance. 

After dodging a third attempt on Crystal, Valeriah decides their best hope is to escape Chimeria through one of the portals and try to hide out in Los Angeles.  When Rolf reveals himself to be a dragon in disguise, their alliance almost falls apart.  An unexpected assault on Valeriah pulls them back together and leaves a trail for them to follow, first to the man who attacked Valeriah and from him to the man, and the reason, behind it all.

And when a werewolf and a dragon go on the hunt together, their quarry better start to worry.

BLOOD WILL TELL is an urban fantasy novel with elements of paranormal romance, complete at 95,000 words.

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First, a little status.  I have cut 1000 words from THE SHAMAN’S CURSE and 2000 words from THE IGNORED PROPHECY.  And that was just yesterday.

You have to get the beginnings right.  Otherwise, nobody’s going to read the golden prose in the middle, the fantastic climax, or the awe-inspiring ending.  (Well, we hope the middle, climax, and ending are all those things, any way.)

I’m thinking about this today because I had the good luck to have someone read the first few new chapters of DREAMER’S ROSE before I got too far into it.  The good news is: it was interesting enough to read on.  The bad news is: the critiquer thought a side character was the protagonist and that the real protagonist was shallow.

Diagnosis:  I was rushing.  I was trying so hard to get to what I saw as the inciting incident quickly, that I was just skipping over a lot of territory.  So now I’m going back over those early chapters, expanding where appropriate, and improving my protagonist’s motivation for what he does.

Discussing the critique a little gave me the insight to realize that what I was seeing as the inciting incident was really part of the try/fail cycle (a failure).  The real life-altering event occurs much earlier.  I don’t have to rush and the story will be so much better for it.

I’m so fortunate to have found this out early.  You don’t want to be trying to build a 100,000 word edifice on quicksand.

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As a writer, my inner editor is my best friend when I’m doing revisions.  But it can be a demon during a first draft.

For years, I started several things and never finished any of them.  I’d get five or ten or even fifty pages in and decide it was all garbage and start over.  Then I finally decided that was enough of that.  So, when I started THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, I made myself a rule: I couldn’t go back and change anything until I had finished the whole thing.  I could make notes in the margins about what I wanted to change, but I couldn’t actually edit anything until it was complete.  I probably only managed to stick to this rule because I wrote THE SHAMAN’S CURSE long hand in several spiral notebooks.  It’s just harder to go back and tweak things that way.  I only broke this rule twice, when it was obvious that I had gone down a false trail and the only way to move forward was to go back a little.

I’ve outgrown the spiral notebooks, but it looks like I might need to remind myself of that rule.  After writing about 6,500 new words, I’ve been stuck for several days on the new chapters for DREAMER’S ROSE. I know exactly why; I don’t like the last part I wrote.  There’s too much telling.  Either I need to find a way to show these things or they’re not important enough to keep.  Since they go to my antagonist’s personality and motives, I think they probably are important enough to show.  I just don’t have a good handle on the scenes to do that right now. 

So, the answer is, to remember that at least this part of the book is still a first draft.  I need to turn that little demon of an inner editor off, make a note, and just move on.  I can fix it in the revisions.  That’s what they’re for.

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This topic came up today because I’ve been working on the first revision of DREAMER’S ROSE, which includes about ten new chapters at the beginning.  It feels very good to have the words flowing again after having been stuck on SEVEN STARS.  The new chapters also give me a chance to get a good look at my antagonist as a petulant teenager.  So, ultimately, even if I decide to go back to something closer to the first starting point, there’s no downside to writing this.

Especially because antagonists are just harder for me.  I have much more fun writing about the good guys, the protagonists.  Very often, in my first draft the bad guys are bad just because they are.  Even though I usually know what motivates them, it just doesn’t come through in the first draft.  So the antagonist is always something I pay particular attention to when I start the revisions.

In THE SHAMAN’S CURSE and THE IGNORED PROPHECY, the antagonists are motivated by revenge, one to the point of obsession, the other in a coldly calculating way.  The antagonist in BLOOD WILL TELL is actually trying to do the right thing, as he sees it, but in a horribly wrong way.  The villain in DREAMER’S ROSE (and this one is a villain) wants something but he’s not willing to pay the price to earn it, so he’s trying to steal it instead.  It gets more interesting when you realize that what he’s trying to steal is the power of a god–and he almost succeeds.

SEVEN STARS didn’t really have an antagonist.  There were some people who weren’t very nice who got in the way, but they weren’t truly antagonists.  So, there’s at least one insight into what may be wrong with that story and what I’ll need to do to fix it when I eventually go back to it.  No writing is ever wasted.  You always learn something.

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. . . at least for a while.

I can be stubborn.  Ask anybody who knows me.  A former boss once compared me to the Energizer Bunny.  With me, he had to be careful what he pointed me at because I would keep going until I got there, no matter what was in the way.  Sometimes, that’s not a good thing.  Sometimes, you need to step back, look at the problem again, and try a different approach.  I didn’t really learn that until I became a caregiver for my mother (who has Alzheimer’s disease, if you haven’t checked out my About Me page).

Well, it can happen with a story, too.  Sometimes, like BLOOD WILL TELL, a story just flows out like turning on a tap.  Sometimes, it feels like you’re carving every letter into granite.  Most times, of course, it’s somewhere in between.  But when it’s like carving the story into stone, it’s probably a sign that something is wrong.

My (late) current project, SEVEN STARS, seemed to be going well until right around 40,000 words.  It was never the roller coaster ride writing BLOOD WILL TELL was, but it was about normal.  I knew the characters.  I knew where the story was going.  And right about that half-way mark or so, I hit a wall.  I had to fight for every paragraph.  It was a rare scene that I could write in one sitting.  It just wasn’t working. 

I took a break.  I worked on the query and synopsis for BLOOD WILL TEL.  I did a few more critiques than average for other writers.  But it’s just not working.  And finally, even I have to admit it.  Something is wrong.  Maybe I haven’t spent enough time on world-building.  Maybe I chose the wrong character as the protagonist.  Maybe the story just stinks.  The answer is the same, either way.  I have to shove this one into a drawer for a while until I have some distance from it, so I can see what the problem is.

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In addition to working on the query and synopsis for BLOOD WILL TELL this week, I’ve also been busy with more than my usual number of critiques.  I try to have some critiques going most of the time, but sometimes it’s feast or famine. 

There is no single thing that has improved my writing as much as giving and receiving critiques.  It’s not the easiest thing in the world to get used to having someone actually critique your work.  These are, in a sense, your children.  Now somebody is telling you what’s wrong with them and where they fail to meet expectations.  Initially, the desire to defend them can get the better of you.  But, ultimately, you have to learn to listen, sift through the critiques to find the gems, and go back and fix those stories until they’re as near perfect as you can make them.  Besides, it helps toughen you up for those inevitable rejection letters.

Having other writers critique your work is invaluable.  Writers notice things that other readers might not.  A reader might notice that your prose doesn’t seem to flow.  Another writer will tell you that you’ve written too many short choppy sentences, that you’ve used said bookisms, or that you’ve used too many adverbs.  Critiques are also worth their weight in gold in helping you find those sneaky holes in your plot or the times when your characters just aren’t acting like themselves. 

But, perhaps even more useful than having your work critiqued is critiquing someone else’s work.  It’s very easy to be too close to your own work to see those things, sometimes.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve started to write something in a critique and suddenly realized that I had done the exact same thing somewhere in my writing. 

So, if you want to learn to write better, join a writer’s group, either online or in person.  Critique and put your own works up to be critiqued by others.  There is no substitute.

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Wow.  It’s been a few days since I last posted.  That’s because I’ve been working on the query and synopsis for BLOOD WILL TELL.  And, let me tell you, compared to writing the novel, this part is work.  It’s necessary, but it’s nowhere near as much fun as writing a story.  So, once I convince myself to tackle it one more time, it’s best not to allow too many distractions.

BLOOD WILL TELL actually came incredibly easily.  The first, rough draft just flowed.  For the most part, the revisions weren’t much more difficult.  But now it’s time to do the hard work.

Imagine you’ve just spent several months of your life writing a novel in something around 100,000 words.  You’ve created characters and a world, crafted the plot, built conflict, and brought the whole thing to a satisfying ending.  You’ve had people you trust to tell you the truth read it.  And revised based on their critiques.  You’ve polished it.

After you’ve done that, the next thing you have to do is retell that story in 1,000 words or so.  And you’ve got to try to make it interesting, because this is one of the tools to help you sell your novel.  You can’t just summarize the plot like a book report.  It has to have character and conflict, just like the novel.  I’m still fighting this one. 

Oh, and if you think the synopsis was fun.  Now you get to do it all over again–in about 250 words for the query letter.  Except for that one you don’t want to give away the ending.  I’m on the sixth revision to this version of the query letter.  There were two versions before this that went through similar revison processes only to be discarded.

I would so much rather be writing the murder scene for SEVEN STARS.  But this is part of the job, too.  It can’t be avoided.  And it has to be done the very best I can, because otherwise, no one will ever get to read BLOOD WILL TELL.


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