Archive for January, 2013

You think trying to sum up a whole novel in 250 words for a query is hard? Try a 35-word pitch. They’re evil, I tell you.

This is what I’ve got so far:

Casora was raised as a warrior. Tiaran can barely swing a sword, but he knows palace intrigue. To win the war and make a place for themselves, they’ll both have to stretch beyond their limits.

I have to get this and the first 250 words ready for the alternate round of Pitch Wars by Sunday.

The first 250 words have changed, too. Sometimes, you just need someone to slap you on the side of the head. After getting the revision notes from my mentor and taking a couple of days to digest them, I realized that there was too much world-building in the first few chapters. Not that the world-building was bad, just misplaced. It got in the way of letting the story really get rolling. Just because I love world-building doesn’t mean it’ll draw a reader in. Well, sometimes . . .

Anyway, here’s the new first 250 words:

Casora restrained the impulse to get up and pace across the floor of the command tent. She couldn’t show emotion, not even frustration, in front of her troops, but the continued silence from home was troubling. She reached up to rub the little scar above her right eyebrow.

She glanced up at the mountains visible through the open tent flap. The snow crept lower every day and so did her hopes of a recall order to let the troop over-winter at home. Casora dreaded the prospect of a winter stuck in camp with a troop made up entirely of homesick teenagers and every one of them carrying the potential of the berserker curse. She’d better start planning a lot of training exercises.

“Riders coming!” The shout came from the lookout to the east, toward home. After a pause, the lookout added, “Two of them.”

Only two riders? She’d sent three out.

Casora walked to the front of the tent and cursed under her breath. They were her scouts all right, but whatever orders they brought had better be end-of-the-world urgent. There was no other excuse for abusing the horses like that. Then she realized that Varana’s braid was redder than it should be–blood red. Casora took off running. So did others from all parts of the camp. Varana fell off the winded mare just as Casora reached her.

“Report,” she said, but more quietly than her usual command voice.

“Stumbled into a scouting party just inside the pass. Ambushed.”

And that’s what I’ve been doing for the last few days–and will be for the next couple, too.

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Well, it was nice while it lasted, but it looks like I’m leaving the first draft behind for a while and heading back into revision land.

I think I mentioned here before that I’m a first alternate in Pitch Wars with FIRE AND EARTH. I got the revision notes back from my mentor on Friday and I’ve been digesting them for the last day or so. Some of them I completely agree with, but one in particular has taken me awhile to come around to. She says I started the story in the wrong place–by about eight chapters. Yikes. And then use some of the saved words to further develop the characters, side characters, and their goals and conflicts, as well as more showing of emotions.

But, you know, she has a point and what she identifies as the inciting incident may be a better choice than what I thought was the inciting incident. Now, I don’t know yet if I’m going to be able to delete all of that. There are some things in there I really do believe the reader needs to know to understand what’s driving the characters. But I’ve already identified–and cut–quite a lot that isn’t really necessary. I might be able to work in some of the rest later in the story.

I’ve got a lot of work to do on this. And I have to try to do as much as possible by the 20th, because where the story really starts will determine what the first 250 words are. Duh! (Also, you know, it’s just good form to have a completed ms for things like this just in case an agent makes a request.) Plus I need to write a 35-word pitch. I have about four possibilities right now and frankly, they all suck. This is not the part of writing I’m good at. I really like the description by a critique partner (thank you MattLeo) that trying to boil the story down to 35 words is necessarily like trying to decide which blind man had hold of the most interesting part of the elephant.

Plus, the reader critiques of THE BARD’S GIFT are starting to come in much earlier than I expected. (I was planning on the end of the month.) I think that’s good. It takes longer to read a story to critique it and I only sent it out on (I think) the 30th of December. I’m taking that to mean that the story kept them reading.

Back to work with a vengeance.

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Okay, enough goals for the new year and holidays and birthdays. Back to the important stuff–writing.

THE BARD’S GIFT is out to readers. I’ve even gotten my first response back–and it was a good one. I’m still waiting for feedback on FIRE AND EARTH and MAGE STORM. So, it’s time to move on with something new.

Right now, I’m working on the rewrite of last year’s MAGIC’S FOOL, which was itself a partial rewrite of my first (serious) novel, THE SHAMAN’S CURSE. Since the main character’s age (13) was going to be a show-stopper with agents, this time he’s a couple of years older and it’s a boy-oriented young adult story. I feel better about that after reading David Farland’s NIGHTENGALE. It’s a balance between writing some new material and reusing a good bit of what I wrote last year, so it’s going pretty fast. 

Meanwhile, I’m letting a couple of shiny new ideas percolate in my subconscious. I love them both, but neither of them is quite ripe. I’m still mostly a discovery writer, but I know better than to start in on a novel-length story without a reasonable idea of where I want it to go–and what it’s central problem is. One is a sort of Oz story–if Oz was more like a magical Jurassic Park than Munchkinland and Dorothy wasn’t sure if she could trust the scarecrow, cowardly lion, or tinman. The other is a secret history of King Arthur–with dragons.

Here’s to a successful and productive 2013.

Cowardly Lion's Courage Medal

Cowardly Lion’s Courage Medal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Yesterday was my birthday. (No, I’m not going to tell you which one.) We’re actually doing the dinner and cake thing tonight. It’s a rule in this house: all birthdays happen on Sunday. It just simplifies things.

birthday cake

birthday cake (Photo credit: freakgirl)

However, since yesterday was my real birthday and since one of my New Years goals is to make (or take) more time for me, I gave myself the day off. There are some things I can’t avoid doing, but other than that, I didn’t do anything if I didn’t want to–and for the most part, I didn’t.

I slept in and then made myself a birthday brunch of Sour Cream Pancakes–absolutelty the tenderest, most melt-in-your mouth pancakes you will ever eat–and bacon.

Sour Cream Pancakes:

1 egg

1 c. buttermilk

1 c. sour cream

1 c. flour

1 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt.

Mix all that together until the batter is smooth. Let it rest at least 10 minutes. And then cook like any other pancakes. Yummy.

Then I watched movies pretty much all day–mostly movies I got for Christmas–with a few breaks to get up and move around a little and occasionally indulge my internet addiction.

I watched:

“Ice Age Continental Drift” — fun, made me laugh.

“Snow White and the Huntsman” — good, even though I’m not a great fan of Kristen Stewart. I didn’t like the slightly ambiguous ending, but that’s me. I tend to like my stories tied up properly.

“Robin Hood” — I’m not a great fan of Russell Crowe, either, but I’ve always been a Robin Hood junkie. Unfortunately, despite the title, this one hadn’t gotten around to being a Robin Hood story more than an hour in, so I quit. I’ll probably watch the rest of it sometime.

Birthday gifts will be tonight, along with the dinner. I did get one thing via email though. Another query rejection. Which might have stung a bit, being my birthday and all, except that this is one I’d already marked down as “No reply means no.” After all, I’d sent the query back in July. Obviously, they’re just doing a bit of New Years house cleaning.

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I gave up making resolutions a couple of years ago. No one keeps them. Instead, I try to make goals. Goals–good ones, anyway–are concrete and are able to be broken down into achievable steps. There’s a much better chance of at least making progress toward a goal than there is of keeping a resolution. At least, there is for me. So, here are my writing goals for 2013:

  1. Get THE BARD’S GIFT in shape to start querying it. It’s going out for critiques this month. Then revisions and polish. Plus, of course, getting the query in shape and writing the evil synopsis.
  2. Get MAGE STORM into shape to start querying it again. It’s been off the market since last March. This one is still in the hands of a very thorough critique partner.
  3. FIRE AND EARTH, too. This one is currently in the hands of a mentor from Pitch Wars. Once I hear back, beat it into shape and get it out there again. If I haven’t found an agent for one of the above by the end of 2013, I’ll e-publish FIRE AND EARTH.
  4. Whip BLOOD IS THICKER into shape and e-publish it.
  5. Enter Writers of the Future at least one quarter.
  6. Write the first drafts of two new novels. One will be the rewrite of MAGIC’S FOOL (which I have outlined and ready to go). The other will likely be one of the two shiny new ideas that came to me in the last couple of months. I’m excited by both of them, but I have more world building and prep work to do before either is really ready to go.
  7. Learn and improve.

I have a list of personal goals, too, but this post is already long enough.

Happy–and productive and successful–New Year!

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