Archive for June, 2010

It’s going to be a busy day, so I’ve added some material under Worlds.

Meet the Valson from the world of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE and THE IGNORED PROPHECY.

I’ve also added more unused material to Chimeria.


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It’s an odd thing.  Or maybe it’s not.  But I get my best writing ideas when I’m writing.  Not just ideas for the story I’m working on, although that happens, too.  Ideas for other stories or brand new stories come easier and faster when I’m writing.

I don’t mean precisely when I’m sitting at the keyboard.  When I’m writing something new, more ideas come to me all the time.  It doesn’t happen that way when I’m primarily working on revisions.  Something about writing new scenes and chapters and stories sort of greases the skids.  My subconscious gets on track and starts pumping ideas out at me whenever my brain is more or less idle–in the shower, walking the dogs, pulling weeds.

That can get frustrating.  I’ve had ideas take over and force me to write them out before I could get back to what I thought I was supposed to be working on.  Most of the time, though, I can just open the appropriate file, jot down a few notes, and then get back on track.

This was brought home to me this last week as I started working on a new novel, MAGE STORM.  I had been working on revisions and waiting for new inspiration to come to me for the abandoned novel SEVEN STARS.  Nothing much came.  I started work on MAGE STORM and suddenly I’m seeing what I need to do with SEVEN STARS.  The ideas are coming, now. 

SEVEN STARS will have to wait, though.  I’m on chapter 3 and starting to really get into MAGE STORM.

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Queries, Again

I’ve been busy.  I recently finished the major revision to THE IGNORED PROPHECY.  I just finished the first draft of a new short story.  I’m starting a new young adult fantasy, MAGE STORM.  On top of all that, I’ve been working on a new version of the query for BLOOD WILL TELL. 

I’m feeling like I might, almost, maybe be getting close this time.  Writing a query is so different from writing the book in the first place.  It’s a lot harder.

One of the problems, especially with fantasy, is figuring out just how much detail to put in and what to leave for the synopsis or even the sample chapters.  It’s a fine line.  Without some detail, your query ends up sounding generic and not very exciting.  But too much will bog it down in a heartbeat. 

Names are another problem, more so with the often-unfamiliar names of a fantasy.  You feel like you want to name at least the major characters in the query.  But you only have about 250 words.  If you put half a dozen names in there, you can’t expect anybody reading it cold to figure out who’s who.  And you can’t give even a tiny description of more than one or two people and still give any sense of the setting or plot.

One or two more tweaks and then it’s time to send out a few more queries.

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What is it with me and openings lately?  I had DREAMER’S ROSE starting with the main character sitting and waiting for something to happen.  It did happen, very shortly, but that’s still not a very exciting opening.  Not exactly riveting.  I’ve fixed that one.  At least now he’s preparing for something to happen.

Then what do I do?  I turn around and start MAGE STORM with the main character being bored.  Once again, something starts happening right away.  But, really, I have to come up with a better start than boredom.

MAGE STORM is based on a short story, which will basically be the first chapter.  But I wanted to make the opening more relevant to the YA audience.  I fell back on what I felt while doing similar tasks at that age.  That’s how it happened.  I really need to come up with something a tad more interesting, though, I think. 

Oh well, that’s what first drafts are for.  Make a note and move on.

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First an update:  I just finished the revision/rewrite of THE IGNORED PROPHECY!  And . . . drumroll . . . it came in at 99,000 words.  So I don’t have to get that big pair of scissors out after all.  I’m still going to want to go back and tune a few things up a bit, but it’s just about ready for readers.

I started this revision when I set my then work in process, SEVEN STARS aside.  Supposedly, I’ve been waiting for new inspiration and I’ve had some.  But, lately, the inspiration that’s been coming to me has been for a different story.  So, it looks like my next novel-length project will be MAGE STORM, not SEVEN STARS.  A first attempt at the one-sentence pitch for MAGE STORM:

Magic is supposedly dead in Rell’s world, but when he finds himself ‘gifted’ with magic he doesn’t know how to control, he’s ostracized from his family and runs away to find someone who can help him learn to use his magic safely.

MAGE STORM is actually based on one of my short stories.  And this one is going to be something of a departure for me because I see this story as a young adult fantasy.  THE SHAMAN’S CURSE and THE IGNORED PROPHECY are both written to be acceptable reading for young adults, but they are not specifically aimed at that target audience.  This will be.  That means, among other things, that I’m really going to have to pay attention to my pacing.  YA has to move faster than adult fiction.  That should be a useful exercise for me whatever happens.

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Point of View

Update:  I’m approximately 90% done with the revision of THE IGNORED PROPHECY.  The good news is that I’ve found almost enough material to cut in the last few chapters to offset the added material.  I won’t need as big a pair of scissors on the next go through.  After this, it will still need one more pass for consistency and to look for places to increase the tension still more.  Then it’ll be ready for more readers.

Today’s topic: Point of View.  Up to now, I have always written in third person.  I try to get into close third person, meaning I’m in the head of one of the characters, as often as I can.  Some scenes don’t lend themselves to that, for me.  Some do.

The new short story that I’m sort of working on during revisions to the novel is different.  Early this morning (you don’t want to know how early), I went through and changed the thousand or so words I’ve written to first person.  I’m going to try that for this one.  A good bit of the story involves the main character not understanding the world she finds herself in and not knowing what’s going on.  Her confusion may work best in first person.  If it doesn’t, I can always revise it and change it back.

That creates a problem, though.  Since the main character doesn’t always know what’s going on, I’ve got a few scenes in third person omniscient to allow the reader to see, and understand, what’s going on.  I’m not sure whether I can pull that off.

This will be a new experience for me and a bit outside my comfort zone, but if you never try anything new . . .

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My last post was about my frustration with a particular story.  The beginning had just come to me and I liked it, but then I couldn’t figure out where it was going.  Mostly, I knew where I didn’t want the story to go.  Too many of the first ideas that came to me were cliche and I knew it.

Well, as sometimes happens, just writing about it here jump started my brain into coming up with a few more ideas.  I also, as I said I would do in the last blog, printed out what I had (about 1,000 words and a bunch of questions) and showed it to a friend, asking for input.  Sometimes, you just need to bounce ideas around a little to let them get some momentum.

My friend tells me that the start is good, intriguing.  That’s nice.  She also came back with her own ideas.  Now, this friend is creative (in a different medium), but she’s not necessarily the best person to brainstorm with.  She tends to get invested in her ideas and try to persuade you to do things her way.  But she can still be a big help, you just have to go about it a little differently.

In this case, some of her ideas went in exactly the direction I’d already decided I didn’t want to go, so I just nodded and kept going.  Some were a little too . . . fairy tale, although there still might be the germ of a plot point there.   It just has to be twisted around so it’s not the same.  Some were good.  Some combined in potentially interesting ways with the new ideas I’d been coming up with.  And some were thought provoking. 

I’ve since rejected some of my ideas.  For example, I’d thought of setting this in Chimeria (see Worlds), but I’ve decided I really don’t want to try writing another short story in a world I know too much about right now.  But I’m also rejecting her idea of a setting and creating something different just for this story.

The plot and the story are starting to come together in my head.  This one could be a lot of fun.

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The frustration in this case is with a short story that just won’t cooperate and tell me where it wants to go. 

A week and a half ago, more or less, this opening for what could be a really good short story popped into my head.  At least I’m certain it’s very different and original.  I wrote it down, of course.  (Well, I typed it into my computer.  Same thing.)  I’m a pantser.  I’m willing to take things on faith to a certain extent and just plunge in writing.  Usually, my best ideas come when I’m writing. 

I’ve gotten a couple more scenes written, but I can’t seem to get past the beginning so far.  I haven’t had any ideas that aren’t cliche and it’s driving me nuts.

Later on today I’m going to try to get someone else involved in tossing a few ideas around and see if that can get the brain cells charged.  If not, I’ll just have to file this away for the time being and hope that something surfaces from the depths of my subconscious eventually.

Oh well, the original question that led to that opening occurred to me about fifteen years ago.  I just hope it doesn’t take that long for the rest of the story to materialize.

Meanwhile, chapter revisions on DREAMER’S ROSE and then back to the rewrite of THE IGNORED PROPHECY.  It would be really nice to have a new story to work on during the revisions.  I’m getting itchy for something new.

UPDATE :  Well, you see, that’s one of the values of a blog.  I wrote the post above and then went out to do a little work in the yard (also a prime time for getting writing ideas).  What do you know?  I was cutting the bishop’s cap vine along the side of the house and some new ideas came to me.  It’s not there, yet, by a long way.  But it’s that much closer.

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The curse of revisions isn’t having to do them.  I really don’t mind revisions.  I know writers who have a hard time forcing themselves to revise, but I actually still really like these characters.  I don’t mind visiting with them again.

No, for me at least, the curse is that my story always seems to end up longer after the revisions. 

I’m about half-way through the current rewrite of THE IGNORED PROPHECY and, counter to my hopes, I haven’t ended up cutting it down any.  In fact, it’s grown by about three thousand words.

I did succeed, I hope, in tightening up the beginning.  It’s one chapter shorter, anyway.  But that’s been outweighed by additional content to get deeper into the main character’s point of view and by a few other minor points I’ve added as I’ve gone along, especially to give better motivation to one of the supporting characters.  I’m adding a scene right now, which means still more length.  However, I think this scene will help to show the main character’s internal conflict and how far he’s willing to go to get answers at this point.  So it’s needed.

There are a couple of places up ahead where I might end up cutting some material, but the best I can hope for at this point is to break even.  That means that there will have to be at least one more pass through specifically to find things to cut.  That’s my least favorite kind of revision, but sometimes necessary.

It always seems to work this way for me.  Every revision grows a little until I have to do a final revision to chop it back down.

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