Archive for April, 2011


I’m in that transition phase. I finished up the revision on BLOOD WILL TELL, at least until I can get a reader or two. I’m ready to start the second draft of SEVEN STARS. The problem is, it just takes me a couple of days to get my head out of one story and into the other.

So, during the transition, I’ve been working a little on  polishing up the start of SEVEN STARS, but I’ve also been working on a few other things.

  1. I polished up “Heart of Oak”, cut about 300 words (not as many as I wanted to, but as many as I felt I could) and sent it out again. It had been sitting on my hard drive for almost a month. Not going to find a home that way. At 9500 words, there aren’t that many appropriate markets for this one. It may turn out to be my first e-published story later this year.
  2. I’ve worked on my query for MAGE STORM. This is actually going to work out well, since it appears one of my writer’s forums will have a query challenge next month. I’m not actually planning on sending out any more queries until the middle of May. That’s when I go to my second-ever writer’s event. Agents Day, hosted by the local chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I’ll be getting a critique of the beginning of MAGE STORM there. Might as well wait and see what I can polish up before the next round of queries.
  3. I’m looking over another short story, “The Bard’s Gift” to see if I can polish it up a little before sending it back out again. It’s been sitting on my hard drive almost as long as “Heart of Oak”.

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I have only three chapters to go to complete this revision of BLOOD WILL TELL.  Woo Hoo!  I have to say, I’m ready to finish it. This revision turned into a more extensive near-rewrite than I had originally planned. I think the story is stronger. At least, I certainly hope so.

I will definitely need to recruit a reader or two with no previous knowledge of the story to go over it and make sure it still makes sense.

Among other things, I deleted almost all of the scenes/chapters from the point of view of the antagonist. I decided that knowing so much about what he was attempting was making him seem more bumbling than threatening. Because, of course, I couldn’t let him succeed in killing off the main characters. That would have brought the story to a rather abrupt and premature end. Besides, I’m a sucker for HEA (Happily Ever After). 

I also added some scenes late in the story to give a previously insipid character a chance to shine. It comes late, she’s still pretty wishy-washy at the beginning of the story, but that’s deliberate. She needs some things to happen to her before she can really start to shine.  If and when I get to the sequel (and that story has been rising in my mind, lately), she’ll get a bigger part.

And I redid the climax so that there’s a reversal (which should have been there all along, of course). A character who didn’t die before, does now. (Don’t worry, I didn’t mess up the HEA ending.) That, hopefully, adds more tension and suspense to the ending. It really shouldn’t feel like a foregone conclusion that the heroes will win.

All that and a host of small corrections and improvements along the way.

So now to finish up those last three chapters and get ready to start on the second draft of SEVEN STARS. I’m starting to get an itch to get back to that story.


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So here are a couple of other interesting things to enter in the blogosphere:

Workshop Wednesday at Bookends, LLC http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2011/04/workshop-wednesday.html

And First Page Shooter at Confessions from Suite 500


Here’s another at YATopia:


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Pitch Contest

If you follow the blogs of other writers, agents, and others in the publishing business, you’ll inevitably find out about contests and on-line workshops. Many agents are very generous about helping those of us trying to break in, both on their own blogs and through these contests.

One contest that’s running now is a Pitch Contest, judged by agent Natalie Fischer:


You can’t beat that. A chance to have a real agent judge your pitch–and maybe even request more from you.

There are other opportunities out there, too, that I’ll probably blog about in the near future.

As a side benefit, I often discover some really good blogs by following these links.  That’s a hint, folks.

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Plot Holes

One of the things that will happen as you work your way through a revision like the one I’m doing on BLOOD WILL TELL is that you’ll find a plot hole or two. That happened to me in Chapter 25.

Well, let’s not call it a hole, exactly, but the weave is definitely a bit looser there. Only one reader called me on it, but even one reader thrown out of the story because something seems unbelievable or too much of a coincidence is one too many.  So, I’ve spent the last day or so brainstorming how else to get my characters from one point to the next.

I think I’ve come up with a solution that will work at least as well, if not better. And doesn’t cause as many questions. That’s a good feeling.

So many things have been moved, deleted, or changed in this revision that I am definitely going to need a reader or two, somebody unfamiliar with the story, to make sure that it all still makes sense. I know all the plot turns, so I can’t do it.

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My primary writing task right now is the revision to BLOOD WILL TELL. That’s been going very well–nine chapters in just the last four days. But I’m a believer in Kevin J. Anderson’s Tip #4 for Writing Productivity (among others), so I’m rarely working on just one thing.

Tip #4 is to have multiple projects in different phases. The different kinds of effort don’t conflict because you’re using different parts of your brain and being able to switch off when you hit a sticking point or just get tired of one thing keeps you working on your writing, not surfing the internet.

So, my main task is this revision, but at the same time, I’m:

  1. Brainstorming and doing some research on the next story (THE BARD’S GIFT).
  2. Getting ready to start the second draft of SEVEN STARS.
  3. Working on selling the last completed story (MAGE STORM). Right now, that means reworking the query and synopsis for another round of submissions.
  4. Making various revisions to three short stories.
  5. Making decisions about what to do with an older story (DREAMER’S ROSE).
  6. Preparing for the Agents Day event next month.
  7. And doing a number of critiques. In fact, I expect the number of critiques to begin picking up dramatically next week when the first round of exchanges for the Hatrack River Writers Workshop WotF Critique Group starts up.

Sometimes these things dovetail in unexpected ways. For the Agents Day, I had to reduce my one-and-a-half page synopsis for MAGE STORM to a single page. That was in interestng exercise in itself and not one I probably would have forced myself to do otherwise. But, like writing elevator pitches, it forces you to concentrate on what’s really important and what’s a distraction 0r at best a subplot.

And the elevator pitch for MAGE STORM has made me concentrate more on what’s key in that story. I think I carried the last query pitch too far into the story, so that gives me ideas on what to change in the next round.

Gotta love synergy.

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Unscheduled extra post this week to update the elevator pitches.

  1. BLOOD WILL TELL : A half-werewolf and a dragon in disguise join forces to rescue an innocent woman from an unknown attacker. Without knowing who or why, each tries to solve the mystery in their own way. But a decades-old crime and the dragon’s true identity may destroy their collaboration just when their enemy has found their hide out.
  2. MAGE STORM : All Rell knows of magic is the damage it caused in the Great Mage War when all the magic users destroyed each other and parts of their world, like the Blighted Forest just beyond Rell’s home. People believe that the magic died with the mages until Rell develops an unexpected ability he can’t restrain. With every strong emotion sparking uncontrolled magic, Rell has to find someone who can help him learn to control this gift for his own safety and everyone else’s.
  3. SEVEN STARS : Because she bears the berserker curse, Casora has been raised to be a warrior from birth. After releasing the berserker in battle, Casora has two goals: to fight the enemy that overran her home and to find a cure for her curse. She might accomplish both with the help of Tiaran, a young prince whose gullibility and desire to prove himself strand him on the wrong side of the marauding army.
  4. THE BARD’S GIFT: Whether she wants it or not, Dorata has the Bard’s Gift. Along with the ability to tell a compelling story, sometimes the ancient gods give her the story she must tell. A believer in the new god, Dorata struggles against this gift until she realizes how it can help her people as they face the challenges of wresting a new home from the wilderness, dragons, and malevolent neighbors.

Hmm. It’s amazing what reducing a story to a couple of sentences will do. It’s been pointed out that several of my stories seem to revolve around unwanted magic.  Of course, it’s really a little early to be writing this kind of pitch for THE BARD’S GIFT. That one’s still in development and anything except the basic premise of her gift could–and likely will–change before I actually start writing it.

In other news, I’m making very good progress on the revision to BLOOD WILL TELL over the last couple of days. I officially passed the half-way point this morning.

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Elevator Pitches

Well, I’ve just sent off my very first registration for my very first writers’ event. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Agents Day.

Of course, nothing in my life can be uncomplicated, so the post office returned the registration for insufficient postage four days later. I put another stamp on it and put it back in the mail box. Hopefully, I’ll still get in and they won’t hold it against me that the post office chose to wait until one day after the deadline to return it to me.

Most writers tend to be on the introverted side and I’m no exception, so this is going to be a real stretch for me. Probably, almost certainly, a stretch I need to make. That’s not going to make it any easier.

So, in honor of this event, I need to start working on my neglected elevator pitches for my current works (not counting those on the shelf or about to be put on the shelf).

Pitiful as they are, here’s what I have right now:

  1. BLOOD WILL TELL (In revision): Even Los Angeles may not be a big enough hiding place when a half-werewolf and a dragon unite to protect an innocent woman from a murderer.
  2. MAGE STORM (Complete): 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.
  3. SEVEN STARS (In first draft): A young woman warrior struggling with the berserker curse in her blood and a young prince whose gullibility put him on the wrong side of the walls at the beginning of a siege are the only hope to save a kingdom.
  4. THE BARD’S GIFT (In development): A young woman living on the frontier of a new world must learn to cope with an ancient gift amid the challenges of wresting a new home from dragons and malevolent neighbors.

Pretty bad. Obviously, I’ve got a lot of work to do over the next month.

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It sounds like an oxymoron: revision fun. But there are parts of the revision process that can be fun. One of those is when you essentially get to go back into first draft mode to add something or significantly change something.

The first thing I did on this revision of BLOOD WILL TELL was write most of a new first chapter. Along the way, I’ve added or added to a couple of scenes and changed some until they’re almost unrecognizable.

Now I’ve come to a place where I essentially get to add a new chapter again. I killed virtually al of the existing chapter (I think about a paragraph may remain.) and redid it with a totally different idea.  Some of this was necessary because of other changes I was making, some was generated by comments from one of my readers, and some was just the new ideas that comment sparked.

The new chapter will probably need its own little revision. I think it’s too heavy on interior monologue and a bit short on action right now. But I really like the idea.

This is now the first real introduction of my antagonist, at about a third of the way through the story. (He’s been seen before, but without revealing his role.) 

One of the things I had decided on this revision was that I had spent too much time in the antagonist’s point of view. By showing his repeated attempts to kill the protagonists, I ended up making him look a little bumbling and kept him from being a credible threat at the climax. Of course the protagonists have to squirm out of his traps. If he succeeds in killing them the story would end a bit prematurely. But showing him plotting and gnashing his teeth over his failures emphasized them a little too much.

One of my great readers suggested at this particular point that the antagonist could succeed or partly succeed, because at the moment he’s not trying to kill the protagonists, just steal something. That got me thinking, which is one of the greatest things a critique can do for you (thanks, Robin). I came up with a way for him to succeed, but not realize it.

Then I had a wild inspiration out of nowhere to include a character that died very early in the story as a ghost. This is a whole new element in the story and it impacts a later scene in the same location as well.

Best of all, it makes working on this part of the revision a whole lot more fun.

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Well, after David Farland’s pep talk last week on “How to Sell Your Novel”, I’ve decided to give BLOOD WILL TELL another try through the traditional channels, after the revisions of course. E-publishing isn’t going away. It will still be there–maybe better and easier–when I’m ready.  (I probably will still stick a toe in those waters with a couple of short stories. We’ll see.)

Revisions on BLOOD WILL TELL continue roughly on schedule, if not as fast as I would really like. Still, all things considered. . .  Yesterday, I finished changing one transition into a scene and well, I don’t think the other quite comes up to the level of a scene, but I at least dug deeper. I wrote one whole new scene and added material to another. Not a bad day’s work.

Those additions are mostly for the purpose of showing earlier exactly what is driving my main character. Not only her main motivations, but her fears and the things that she believes (some of which will turn out not to be true). All good and necessary things.

And as I work on these scenes from the beginning, I’m working out some revelations about my characters. The critiques helped me see some things in a new light. I think I sufficiently tortured my main character, but I may have been a bit too easy on my side characters. The love interest gets tortured for a while, too. But his transformation may be just a bit too easy. And, darn it, it’s a source of conflict which I wasted. Can’t let that happen. They ought to have at least one good argument over it and let him think he’s losing her again, before he finally finds the way to change.

I’m still struggling a bit with the sidekick. I’ve tried to give her a little more rounding in the early chapters, but I don’t know if I’ve succeeded, yet. I’ve got a scene coming up later today (hopefully) that I’m going to recast into her point of view. I actually haven’t had a scene in her point of view yet. That’s something I may have to fix later. She seems weak and fragile, shy and naive to the other characters. So, of course, that’s how the reader sees her, too. To a degree, that’s what I want them to see. But to some readers she was just too useless to live. I have to fix that. This scene should give me a chance to show at least a little interior toughness and resolve.

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