Archive for January, 2012

Well, I’ve made good progress so far with my significant plot changes to MAGIC’S FOOL. I’m up to chapter seven. The changes involve bringing one character in much earlier (the beginning of the book instead of the very end) and making her older than she was before by about eight years. Towards the end of the book, one plot element will have to change, too.

I like this change. I think it will read better for the age group. (That’s mostly the change that will come at the end.) Plus it’s going to be a big help moving forward. MAGIC’S FOOL is intended to be the first of a series of (probably) four books. (Tentatively titled MAGIC’S FOOL, MAGIC’S APPRENTICE, MAGIC’S JOURNEYMAN, and MAGIC’S MASTER.)

This character (the main character’s little sister, Kiara) will now be in a much better position to take her intended role in the later books. She was going to be a little young for it, otherwise. Plus, now I get a (very) little conflict with the older boy not wanting his baby sister tagging along all the time. But, hey, every little bit of conflict helps.

Yesterday, I made the most major revisions so far to give Kiara a much bigger role in one chapter, so she can be seen as something other than just the pesky kid sister. She’ll have a bigger role as the series goes on. In fact, I have an unpublished short story about her that I may have to do something with in conjunction with this series. Maybe a free ebook or maybe I’ll just put it up on this blog. Or both. It’s called “Becoming Lioness”, which might give you a hint as to Kiara’s character.

Of course, after I finish this revision, it’s going to need at least one more read through before it’s ready for readers in March. But, this is my third straight time through. I think I’ll give it a bit of a rest before I go through it one last time before the Pied Pipers get it.

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I’ve almost finished the third draft of MAGIC’S FOOL. And I just now decided on a fairly major plot revision.

This draft was supposed to concentrate on improving descriptons, but as I near the end (where most things have already been fairly well described), I started wondering about a particular plot element. It had worked just fine in the original version, before the rewrite. But now I’m targeting a different audience and I’m not at all sure it works for the new market.

Fortunately, I think I see a pretty good solution. One that will, fortunately, actually help to solve a time-line issue that bothered me even in the original version. I think I’ll like this version even better.

Now, I was planning what I was going to work on after I finish this draft: revision notes to BLOOD IS THICKER based on reader input, starting to work on the query for SEVEN STARS, working on that neglected short story I’ve barely started. I still need to do all those things, but I guess they’re going to be delayed a bit.

My readers get MAGIC’S FOOL in March. I’ll need to have it ready for them.

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I’m well into the third draft of MAGIC’S FOOL and still liking it very much. That’s a good sign. Hopefully, my writing colleagues who read it in March will also like it. 

MAGIC’S FOOL is actually a rewrite–complete rewrite as in I didn’t even look at the first version until after I’d completed the first draft–of my first novel, which was called (ahem) THE SHAMAN’S CURSE. TSC was originally written as if it was an adult story, so I’ve had to break it down into parts to make it middle grade. I like this version better, though. It probably alwasy should have been middle grade. I just wasn’t experienced enough as a writer to understand that.

Of course, I’ve had to lose a few things along the way. Several characters have been axed or combined. That’s okay. There were too many in TSC anyway. I am a little sorry about some of the more adult subplots that have to go. Oh well, maybe I can use those ideas in another book somewhere along the line. They just won’t fit here any more.

Here’s the first page, as a teaser:

Vatar rode along beside his father, helping to move the cattle to better grazing. Though, really, the Dardani’s short-legged herd dogs did most of the work of keeping the herd together. Tradition demanded that he spend the day before his formal initiation into the clan with his father. This was supposed to introduce him to the responsibilities he’d be expected to shoulder as an adult someday.

Vatar’s eagerness was boundless. Not so much for the responsibilities, although the glamour of being considered grown up covered even that. Anyway adult responsibilities were still a few years away. Forever to a thirteen-year-old.

It was the more immediate promise of freedom that had him checking the position of the sun every few minutes and wishing it would move faster. After tonight’s ceremony, he would finally be considered old enough. He and his friends would be allowed to ride out of sight of the village in small groups without an adult to keep an eye on them. They’d be able to do things. What things he didn’t know yet, but he was quite certain they could think of some once they had the chance.

He looked around the endless circle of the plains, merging with the sky at the far horizon. The earth was all golden brown now, the grasses prematurely dried up by the lack of rain. Here and there, the green smudges of trees surrounding a waterhole dotted the plains. The darker line of the Great Forest marked the eastern horizon. The possibilities for adventure boggled even his imagination.

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That Room

I won’t be posting tomorrow, so here’s Wednesday’s post a little early.

I’m convinced that every house, or at least every old house has a that room. It’s the room where you put everything when you don’t know where else to put it.

In this house, it’s the back bedroom. The room my great grandfather died in. (Yes, the house has been in the family that long.) After that, it was my brother’s room. My brother who is constitutionally incapable of putting anything up. It was a guest room for a while, but it required a week’s advance notice to clear it out and make it habitable. When Furby, Libby, Inky, Peso, and Buttons were kittens, I used to put them in there at night, so they wouldn’t keep the house awake running up and down the halls. (Been there, done that with a previous litter of kittens–Dart, Chris, Toby, and Falstaff.) More recently, I’ve turned it into a sort of walk-in closet–or tried to.

I have, at times, considered the possibility that there’s some kind of curse on that room. I swear, I can put things up in there and come back later to find half the floor covered with stuff and the shelves all in a jumble. I’ve threatened to burn sage to banish the evil spirits or poltergeist or whatever, but well, it’s that room and I’m afraid I’d start a fire.

This all comes up now because I’m finally getting the last of the Christmas decorations put up. I use the closet in that room for some of the Christmas stuff. And I can’t get all the boxes back onto the shelves they came down from. Why not? I swear I didn’t add anything this year. In fact, I took some things that I hadn’t used in a while outside to store in the garage.

I guess it’s just part of the mystery of that room. There’s probably a story idea in there somewhere.

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Woo Hoo!  I finally typed “The End” at the bottom of BLOOD IS THICKER.

It’s very strange. I enjoyed writing the first two-thirds of that story, but the last third was like pulling teeth. I felt like I had to carve every word out of granite.  I’m sure that’s a sign that the story went seriously off track somewhere. I’ll have to figure it out and fix it.

The good news is: I don’t have to do that right away. In fact, I shouldn’t even try to do it soon. What I need to do is let it rest for a while and come back to it with fresh eyes.

Rest, I’ve come to believe, is one of the least appreciated steps in writing. When you finish a story of any length and you’re so totally in love with it that you can’t see it’s flaws–or when you hate the last third and can’t stand to look at it anymore–that’s the precisely worst time to start the revisions. You have to give yourself time to come back to it without those preconceptions.

I always give myself about a month from completion of the first draft before I start revisions. (I’m in the middle of the second draft of MAGIC’S FOOL right now and it’s going swimmingly.) I generally have an enforced rest again while the story is out to beta readers.

I’ve also come to the conclusion over the last year that that’s not enough. When I really think the story is finished and polished and ready to go, I need to take another break. A longer one, maybe as long as six months, before I start sending it out.

That’s very hard to do at first. A little easier when you have more than one story in the pipeline.

That’s why I’ve been letting SEVEN STARS rest for so long after I finished with the last set of revisions. I’m aiming to open that back up and reread it in another month or so. If I fall in love with it all over again, well, that will be a very good sign.

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A while back, I posted that I was stuck near the end of BLOOD IS THICKER. I’d lost the momentum and was having trouble getting it back. I played around with designing a cover for BLOOD WILL TELL for a while. (That’s still a work in progress, but it’s getting better.) But sooner or later, I had to come back and just find a way to finish BLOOD IS THICKER.

Well, this last week, I have. And here’s what I did:

I went ahead and wrote the last chapter. I had it all pretty much in my head anyway. That I could write with no problem. It was the stuff in between where I was and that ending that was the problem.

I outlined the half-dozen scenes I needed to get there. Generally, I’m more of a discovery writer than a plotter, but in an emergency I can outline. I usually just don’t find them very useful. I’m too apt to depart from them and end up being a pantser anyway. But, for a handful of scenes, it works fine.

Then I gave myself an assignment. Every day I would write one–just one–of those scenes. After that, I would let myself work on the second draft of MAGIC’S FOOL.

And that has been working for me. Just one more scene to go and then I can skip to the bottom and type “The End”.


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A Look Back

This is the last post about resolutions or goals for a while. I promise.

The turning of the year is a time not only to look forward to what we want to accomplish in the coming year, but also back on how well we did last year.

My 2011 Goals:

  1. Get MAGE STORM out on submission. 

Yes. It’s even gotten one request for partial and another request for the full manuscript. I’ll keep querying it at least until SEVEN STARS is ready, about April.

  1. Keep writing and submitting short stories. It’s not the primary focus of my writing, but it is good practice. The publication credits wouldn’t hurt, either.

By my records, I made nine submissions of three different short stories in 2011. No publications, but I did get an Honorable Mention in Writers of the Future.

  1. Finish two books this year.  Current candidates (subject to change without notice) DREAMER’S ROSE (which is in rewrite) and SEVEN STARS (which will be a first draft)

Yes. SEVEN STARS and MAGIC’S FOOL. I very nearly finished BLOOD IS THICKER, too. DREAMER’S ROSE is on the shelf until I figure out how to fix it.

  1. Learn.  There is always more to learn. 

Yes. Of course, there’s still more to learn out there.

  1. Read widely in the YA genre.

Yes, again.

  1. Never give up. Never surrender.

Well, obviously. I’m still here, aren’t I?

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