Archive for July, 2010


It’s beginning to look like my first draft of MAGE STORM will be on the short side.  I’m probably about two-thirds done and less than 30000 words.  That makes the projected first draft about 45000 words.  A young adult novel should be between 50000 and 75000 words.

That’s fine.  I prefer the first draft to be short rather than long.  I’d much rather have the task of adding words than cutting them.

Especially when the first draft, like this one, is being written at almost NaNo speed,  I know there will be places where I need to add description.  I know that there are places where I put in something like “And then this happened”, where I will need to go back and create a scene to SHOW that happening.  I also know that I need to spend more time developing the friendships.  There will also be places where I want to get deeper into the main character’s point of view.  All of those things tend to add to the word count. 

So, short is good.  It gives me room in the second draft to add the things I didn’t have time for in a speedy first draft.  But, when the story is rolling out like this, I just fasten my seat belt and ride the roller coaster.  They don’t all come this easy.  You just have to enjoy the ones that do.

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Well, it’s been quite a week.  I ended up being late blogging, too.

For three days this week, I had no running water due to a water main leak.  Kind of upset the entire apple cart as far as my schedule goes.

Meanwhile, I’m wrapping up a Synopsis Challenge on Hatrack River Writers Workshop, which I hope will be a good learning experience for all concerned.  As I’ve said before, synopses are the very devil to write, so hopefully getting several opinions on our attempts will help all of us see what works and what doesn’t.

In spite of all that, I’m making great progress on MAGE STORM.  I love it when a story just sort of rolls out like this.  I’m approaching the half-way point in my first draft.

To make up for a very poor post, I’ve added The Modgud (still another culture from the world of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE and THE IGNORED PROPHECY) under Worlds.  Enjoy.

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. . . may be habit forming.

I’m beginning to make good progress on MAGE STORM (about 5000 words since Saturday).  And, as I’m writing a first draft, ideas are flowing again, some of them for MAGE STORM, some for the abandoned SEVEN STARS.  With the new ideas, it’s starting to look like SEVEN STARS might turn out to by young adult, too.  Or maybe what one publisher calls “new adult”, as in those people who’ve outgrown young adult, but haven’t quite started in on the regular adult fiction, yet.  (There’s not really a set of shelves for that in the book stores, yet.)  It all depends on the age of my protagonist when I start the story.  I could swing it either way.

The original version of SEVEN STARS was a long way from young adult, but I like these ideas better.  My protagonist won’t have to be quite so hardened.  That’ll make him a little more accessible, hopefully.

Oddly, I find myself reassessing some of my other works to see if they could work as young adult.  THE SHAMAN’S CURSE definitely could, as written.  It starts with the protagonist at fifteen.  Of course, he’s about twenty-three at the end, but he does face a number of young adult issues along the way.  The difficulty there is that it’s the first of a series.  When THE IGNORED PROPHECY starts, the protagonist is twenty-three.  At the end of the last book, he should be about thirty and have six kids, which doesn’t quite feel young adult to me anymore.

BLOOD WILL TELL probably comfortably fits into that “new adult” classification, with a protagonist who’s twenty-five.  It wouldn’t work if she were much younger.

DREAMER’S ROSE would have to change significantly if I wanted to reframe it as young adult, I think.  There’s definitely a subplot I would want to leave out.  And at least one scene–no two–that would have to change markedly, if not be deleted.  And I’m not sure I can do without one of those scenes.

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If you’ve read some of the older posts in this blog, you know that synopses are a particular bugbear of mine.  Like them or not, though, they are necessary, so I’ve got to make peace with them one way or another.

I’m currently in the middle of a synopsis challenge on Hatrack River Writers Workshop.  That means I’ll have half a dozen or so other synopses to read and comment on over the next week.  It’s amazing the things you can spot when your critiquing someone else’s work that you’d never spot in your own.  Hopefully, this helps all of us learn to write better synopses–or at least improve our current ones, if nothing else.

Since I was already in synopsis mode, polishing up the synopsis for BLOOD WILL TELL, I went ahead and wrote the first draft of a synopsis for MAGE STORM, too.  They say that it’s easier to write the synopsis before you write the novel and before your head is full of all the wonderful details and subplots you create.  We’ll see.  I don’t see how it could be any harder that way.  I also took a crack at the synopsis for THE IGNORED PROPHECY and wrote a proto-synopsis for the new version of SEVEN STARS.  Glutton for punishment, I guess.

Now that that’s done, I’m back to work on MAGE STORM, and making progress, with assorted revisions to balance things out and try to keep the internal editor busy with something besides my first draft.

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Well, so much for balance.  Once I got into BLOOD WILL TELL, I got caught up in it (again) and just went straight through.  I really, really love this story.  I believe in it.  Someone else will, too.  So, a bit more spit and polish on the query letter and the synopsis and off it goes again.

My expectation was correct.  Through the rest of the book, I have what I think is an appropriate level of immersion into the characters.  Deep penetration into the point of view at the emotional highs and lows, moderate throughout most of the rest, and narrowed to the immediate during escapes and fights.

What I have learned from this experience is that it seems that I have a little trouble getting into my characters’ heads right at the beginning of a story or novel.  It takes me a chapter or so to get comfy in there.  When I think about it, that doesn’t seem unreasonable. 

Now that I realize that, it’s something I can look for and fix on the second draft (when I’ve had plenty of time to get comfy), just like my writer’s tic of starting sentences with conjunctions.  So, the experience has been good.  Now I know what to look for.

As far as balancing some revisions along with the first draft work, my internal editor will have to be content with revisions to the synopsis for now.  Maybe after that, I’ll pick up revisions to that short story that’s been sitting patiently and waiting for me to get back to it.

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Well, I’ve gotten through the revision of the first three chapters of BLOOD WILL TELL and I’m generally happy with it.  In the end, I dumped the idea of a new first chapter.  The novel now starts about three paragraphs earlier than it did before, which hopefully lets me get in some of my character’s urgency and show, as well as telling through more free indirect thought, her emotions.  I’ve added a bit more description in a couple of places, cut back on some dialog, and added a little side piece of business to one scene that should illustrate the sticky part of the world building.

I’m going to go ahead through the rest of the book to see if there are more places where I can get a little deeper point of view, etc.  I think any further changes will likely be minor.  Then I’ll reread those first three chapters again, just to make sure everything still works as I intended and there are no typos.  Over the next week, I need to revisit the synopsis for this one, too.  After that, I’ll start querying again.

Meanwhile, I’m starting up new work on MAGE STORM again.  Admittedly, I haven’t gotten very far yet, but I have started. 

It’s going to be a balancing act, trying to do even a mild read-through revision on BLOOD WILL TELL, as well as working on the first draft of MAGE STORM.  I may have trouble with that pesky internal editor.  Then again, maybe letting it exercise itself on BLOOD WILL TELL will help me make it shut up when I work on the first draft.  Who knows?

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I mentioned last time that I had gotten into some unexpected revisions on BLOOD WILL TELL, which I had regarded as complete.  It happened like this:  I had actually gotten a request for a partial on this one, which, unfortunately, ended in another rejection.  But the rejection came with a little hand-written note.  That’s good.  It seems the partial was confusing.  That’s not good.  Ever.

Well, of course, it’s not confusing to me, but I have the whole story and more in my head.  So, I asked the writers at the Hatrack Writers Workshop for some help.  Several people stepped up and offered to read the sample and give me their opinions.  It’s great to have a forum like that and I appreciate them all.

So far, the opinions run along these lines:

  • Several people felt that they couldn’t connect with the main character until about the middle of the second chapter.  Not good.  One way to fix that would be to just move the beginning to that point, and I may still do that.  There are some things that I establish in that earlier chapter and a half that I’d like to keep, though, if I can.  So, I’m sweeping through trying for deeper immersion in the character.  (Sweeping may be too big a word.  It’s been almost a week and I’m still on Chapter Two.)  I’m also trying to tighten it as I go with a few judicious cuts.  I’ll go through the whole thing.  I actually think I get pretty good penetration into the character’s POV later.  This may be a failing of mine, that I take a chapter or two to really settle into the characters’ heads.  Something I should look out for and fix in second drafts.
  • A couple of people didn’t like the abrupt introduction to Chimeria.  I’ll pause there for a paragraph to introduce the differences between our world and the magical realm.
  • Some people found the exposition of the premise, which I tried to weave into the story, confusing.  People expect certain things when they see werewolves, unicorns, and dragons.  I’ve consciously stepped a little outside what’s expected.  But I may not have made that easy enough to follow at the beginning.  I think I can reorganize the way certain things are brought out that will hopefully make the whole premise more understandable.  And spend a few more words to help clarify.  Hopefully it’ll make it more interesting, too.
  • It has been suggested that, with this complicated premise, this story might need a prologue.  I tried an ELANTRIS-style prologue (which you can find under Chimeria on the Worlds tab), but it just doesn’t work for me.  So, instead, I’ve tried writing an even earlier first chapter.  This chapter takes place at a very dramatic and important event that occurs twenty years before the rest of the novel–the murders of the main character’s family, witnessed by her as a five-year-old.  I’ll have to see how that works.

All of this, of course, is taking me away from new writing on MAGE STORM.  Well, the new first chapter counts as new writing, too.

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On the surface, it’s obvious.  Writing a first draft is different from revising a second or third (or fourth) draft. 

Switching from revision mode, which I’ve been in for several months now, back to first draft writing mode isn’t so easy though.  I’ve got a reasonably good start on MAGE STORM.  I know where the story needs to be going.  I even think I’m managing to keep a pretty decent pace for a young adult novel.  The problem I’m having is switching off that internal editor again.  I’ve been giving it free rein during revisions of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, THE IGNORED PROPHECY, and DREAMER’S ROSE.  Now I’ve got to turn it back off in order to write MAGE STORM and it’s fighting me.  I keep wanting to stop and search for the perfect word or go back and fix a sentence or two.  It’ll never get done, that way. 

A first draft is all about getting the story down.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Yes, of course, you try to write it as well as you possibly can.  Saves work later.  But the point is to get it written all the way through to THE END.  To do that, you have to avoid the temptation to keep going back over what’s already written to tidy it up.  That’s one of the things the second draft is for.

This is further complicated by some unexpected revisions to BLOOD WILL TELL (more about that in another post, perhaps).  Right now, I’m switching back and forth between revisions and writing new material.  I may have to pick one to work through and then come back to the other.

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