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Posts Tagged ‘Contests’

I’m back at work on Book 3 of the DUAL MAGICS series (currently titled BEYOND THE PROPHECY, but nothing’s set in stone). But I’m not fully back in first draft mode.

I’ve decided that’s part of my problem in really getting this one rolling. After all, I know the characters and the world. I laid down a rough outline of at least the high points of what’s going to happen. So what’s holding me back from making better progress?

Answer, I haven’t yet managed to disengage my editor brain. Writing (a first draft) and revising an existing draft are two very different things, calling not just for different skills, but a whole different mind set. Editor brain worries about what should be shown better and what should be cut, not about telling the story in the first place. Editor brain worries about whether that was precisely the right word.

I realized this yesterday when I wrote a new scene, and immediately thought that I should delete it. Well, there’s a good chance that it will be deleted and the information in it worked in with just a few sentences. It doesn’t really merit two pages. But that’s a decision for the second or third draft, not the first. The first draft only goes forward.

First drafts aren’t supposed to be good writing. Their purpose is to get the story out in the open so it can be revised into good writing. And I’ve been revising for quite a while, now. Both THE SHAMAN’S CURSE and THE IGNORED PROPHECY had already been written before.

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(Not well, but that’s what revision is for.) The plot lines didn’t really change as I reworked them, just tightened up.

And before that, I revised and polished DAUGHTER OF THE DISGRACED KING, which I’m currently querying. It made the top 25 in the Pitch Plus 5 contest. You can see the pitch and first chapter (which just happens to be about five pages long) here. It’s been a while since I was in first draft mode.

It may take a few more days to switch over to the correct frame of mind, but it will happen. And then this draft will start to really move.

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A few weeks ago, I entered the Pitch Plus 5 Contest over at Adventures in YA Publishing. Then, life being what it is, I lost track of when the first round of results were due. Apparently it was yesterday. Now, the way this contest works is that the first 50 entries make it into the contest. (Actually, the first 25 at an impossibly early–for the West Coast–entry window and the first 25 for a window 12 hours later.) Then, those entries are judged on a standard form by respected book bloggers on a standard scorecard. Based on those scores, the top 25 entries make it to the next round.

This time, entrants also get a short critique from that first judge. Email being what it is (newest on top), I read that critique before the announcement of who got in to the next round. The first sentence is “The opening didn’t hook me.” So, naturally, I thought that I wasn’t going any further this time. Then I get down to the list–and DAUGHTER OF THE DISGRACED KING is on it.

Here’s the initial entry, by the way.

So, now I have two days to make revisions and also do a little work on the query and get it in by midnight (9 p.m. my time) tomorrow night for the next round, judged by authors.

Yeah, that means that the first draft of BEYOND THE PROPHECY (book 3 of the DUAL MAGICS series) will be put on hold until Tuesday. (I have written a new first chapter for it, that does a better job of telegraphing the kind of story it will be.)

Meanwhile, I’m in the middle (exactly) of painting the final wall in what will be my new writing space.

Digital CameraWhat I want to know is: who had the bright idea for all those louvers?

Going to be a busy couple of days.

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Where do story ideas come from? Many of the seeds of my stories go so far back that I can’t put a finger on just how they started. THE BARD’S GIFT is not one of those stories. I can trace its development very clearly. Here’s how it happened.

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Back in February of 2010, a writing challenge was issued on one of the writers’ forums to which I belong (Hatrack River). This isn’t uncommon. We have several challenges a year. I’ve only entered a few because they’re all for short fiction–often very short–and, well, I don’t write short well. The last thing I started that was intended to be a short story or maybe a novella is now almost 90,000 words long. However, if an idea comes to me, I will give one of these challenges a try, mostly just to stretch myself.

Some of these challenges have a trigger or writing prompt. The trigger for this one was “Slave to the flame” and I came up with a story about the first dragon to learn to breathe fire, initially titled “First Flame.” It was written as a fable.

My story didn’t do very well in the challenge, partly because I killed off the main character (a dragon). There was nothing else I could do in the word-count allowed for the challenge (3,000 words). The voters also didn’t think he was really a slave to the flame.

Freed from the constraints of the challenge, I added some more to the ending which allowed the main character to survive, although badly wounded. But, it was still a fable. So, I created a framing story, about a girl with the gift of telling the exactly right story at the exactly right time. I put her in a desperate situation and let her tell the fable. This version was 5,000 words long, 4,600 of which was the fable.

But, it left me with a lot of questions. How had the girl come by this ability? How had they gotten into this desperate situation? And, of course, what would happen next?

Some of the things in that framing story made me think it was meant to be in a Norse setting, but not in the Norse homeland. So, I did some research and eventually, in 2012, I wrote it as a young adult novel. That original story is still there. It makes up Chapter 36. Here’s a taste:

 Astrid drew a deep breath. “Some dragons can breathe fire. Did you know that? They couldn’t always breathe fire, though. And while some dragons, like Fafnir, are known to be smart, they weren’t at one time.

“It all goes back to the time of Wyreth the Wise. Now Wyreth was small for a dragon. He could do well enough on his own, but he only survived the dragons’ mating season because he was quick and because he was smarter than the other dragons. And maybe because he was stubborn, too.

“When there were many dragons together he was always last for everything. Dragon society is built entirely on who can bully everybody else. If you’re bigger or stronger than the others, you eat first, you get the best and sunniest sleeping spots, and, if you’re a male, you get most of the females come mating season.” She stole a quick look at Torolf under her lashes, here. “Wyreth was the smallest dragon. So he always ate last, had the worst and coldest sleeping spot, and none of the females even looked at him.”

“Whenever Wyreth killed a deer or a pig–cattle were entirely too big for him–one of the other dragons swooped in and stole it from him. The worst offender was Zilthss, Wyreth’s egg brother and the bane of his existence. Zilthss was big and strong, more than strong enough to kill his own prey, but he preferred stealing Wyreth’s whenever he could.

Because he was big and well-fed, Zilthss slept in one of the best spots and his scales were a beautiful burnished copper. All the females turned their heads when Zilthss flew by, even out of mating season. Wyreth’s scales were an unremarkable dull metallic red.”

Several of the children stole a glance at the shiny red scales behind Astrid.

“Because he was quick and smart, Wyreth usually dragged his kill into the dense brush, where the other dragons wouldn’t easily fit and gulped down as much as he could before they powered their way through to steal his meat. Bolting his food like that gave Wyreth indigestion, but it was better than starving.

“Now, at the time of this story, Wyreth had had a particularly bad week. Mating season was about to begin and the male dragons were more than usually belligerent. Zilthss had trailed Wyreth around like a hound on a scent and stolen everything he killed–even the pitiful little rabbit–before Wyreth could get so much as a bite.

“After losing the rabbit, Wyreth flapped off feeling sorry for himself. He had learned long ago that if he flew up the steep slopes of the cone-shaped mountain, the others wouldn’t follow him. There was nothing of interest there, certainly no game to hunt.

These dragons were creatures of mountain forests and no trees grew on the glassy slopes of that mountain, but at the top there was a round, rocky valley where the stones themselves were warm, even at night. Since Wyreth couldn’t get any of the warm, sunny sleeping spots in the rookery, he’d taken to coming up here. The sun was strong, but the heat from the ground was stronger still and comforting.

“That is, it was usually comforting, but not today, because Wyreth’s stomach was so empty. Even the warm rocks and the sun on his spread-out wings couldn’t ease Wyreth to sleep when his stomach growled so loudly. In desperation, Wyreth chewed on the yellow rocks. The yellow ones were much softer than the shiny black ones; a dragon could break his teeth on those. Some pieces of the yellow rock were small enough to swallow. Not exactly nourishing, but at least it filled up that hollow feeling inside for a while, though Wyreth suspected that they would be the very devil to pass. Well, that was tomorrow’s problem. Wyreth stretched himself out on the heated rocks and slept.

“He woke with a mighty belch. That wasn’t unusual for Wyreth. What was unusual was the gout of blue flame that leapt from his mouth along with the burp. Wyreth back-winged in surprise.”

Several of the older boys laughed at this. The younger ones giggled uncertainly. The oldest boy essayed a burp of his own and that sent the little ones into gales of laughter. Astrid glanced up from the children. Several of the men had looked over at the sound of laughter. Torolf was watching her. Astrid smiled and went on with her story.

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I don’t make resolutions anymore, but I do set goals. And now it’s the time of year to look back and see how well I did. So here are my writing goals for last year and the results

  1. Prepare to query THE BARD’S GIFT. I did. I got it polished up and ready. I queried widely. And the only positive thing I got out of that was four personalized rejections variously praising my writing and the story. Rejections like that are not supposed to exist. Agents just don’t have time. I got four. If four agents took the time to do that, I can only conclude that they saw something good, but just didn’t think the story was commercial enough. THE BARD’S GIFT is now up next to be e-published, early next year.TheBardsGiftCoverSmall
  2. I also set a goal of getting my rewrite of MAGE STORM ready to query again. I met this goal, too. MAGE STORM is currently a first alternate in Pitch Wars. Wish me luck.
  3. Last year, FIRE AND EARTH was a first alternate (with a different mentor) in Pitch Wars. Ultimately, I decided to e-publish it.Fire And Earth Cover (Provisional)
  4. I set a goal to e-publish BLOOD IS THICKER and met that one.Blood Is Thicker Cover
  5. I intended to enter Writers of the Future at least once, but I didn’t. I just don’t write that much short fiction. The one I attempted this year turned into a novel.
  6. Write two first drafts. I guess I met that one, too. MAGIC AND POWER was a completely new first draft and I did a complete rewrite of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, too.
  7. Learn and improve. Well, that’s an ongoing goal and a little too vague, really. I met it, but for next year it might be nice to specify some target areas.

Next post, I’ll start looking ahead to next year’s goals.

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And it feels good. Ever since my Weird Oz Story petered out on me, my productivity has been less than usual. Oh, I’ve kept on working, but I haven’t accomplished as much as I wanted to.

The decision to concentrate on one thing at a time (think of that) has helped. I’m making real progress on my rewrite of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, adding depth and conflicts and all the things that will ultimately make the story even better. (Also longer, but I’m not going to worry about that.)

I also have some ideas on how to break up the log jam on Weird Oz, but I won’t tackle that until after the first of the year–probably not until after the conclusion of Pitch Wars. I’m going to have to go back and restart the story, but it won’t be the first time that’s happened.

Meantime, ‘ve put up another new chapter of BLOOD IS THICKER on wattpad, where you can read it for free.

Also, there’s only about another month to buy the Chimeria Omnibus,

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containing both BLOOD WILL TELL and BLOOD IS THICKER, for the price of either book alone. In mid-January, the price for the Omnibus will go up.

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Well, life is still crazy. Some things are anticipated–and then there are the surprises and unexplained phenomena.

I expect to have some work to do soon on my middle grade fantasy, MAGE STORM because I made it to first alternate in one of the Pitch Wars teams. (I’m on Team Jen Downey.) Yay! So now I can stop being on pins and needles about that. Which is good, because I’m still waiting for a couple of other things, including word on THE BARD’S GIFT. The submission guidelines say twelve weeks. Twelve weeks have passed and still nothing.

Meanwhile, I’ve mostly settled down at this point to finish this pass through of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE. I’ll take the other revisions/rewrites one at a time. That way, I might actually make some progress.

Also, a post by the wonderful Susan Kaye Quinn  along with my ongoing reading of L. Frank Baum’s stories have given me an idea of how to unstick myself on my Weird Oz Story.

And one or two things are moving forward in real life, too. The pace is slow, almost glacial, but progress is being made.

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I probably should be writing a mentee bio for Pitch Wars, but . . . well, that’s not really the kind of writing I’m best at–writing about myself–and, anyway, I feel that I’d like my story to stand on its own. Still, fingers crossed for MAGE STORM everyone.

Instead, I’m going to write about using stories as an escape. It’s one (only one) of the primary purposes of fiction–to take us away from our day-to-day lives and problems for a little while.

This post was inspired by a quote by Dorothy L. Sayers (who wrote the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries) I read somewhere:

Lord Peter’s large income… I deliberately gave him… After all it cost me nothing and at the time I was particularly hard up and it gave me pleasure to spend his fortune for him. When I was dissatisfied with my single unfurnished room I took a luxurious flat for him in Piccadilly. When my cheap rug got a hole in it, I ordered him an Aubusson carpet. When I had no money to pay my bus fare I presented him with a Daimler double-six, upholstered in a style of sober magnificence, and when I felt dull I let him drive it. I can heartily recommend this inexpensive way of furnishing to all who are discontented with their incomes. It relieves the mind and does no harm to anybody.

It’s pleasant to share time–either writing or reading–with a character that doesn’t have to worry about the same things we do. As a writer, I have more scope for this than my readers. I get to spend more time with the characters as I write and revise the story than readers ever will. Plus, I get to determine the backgrounds–privileged or impoverished–from which my characters come.

Of course, those characters do have to have problems or there isn’t much of a story. This wasn’t too much of an issue for Lord Peter, because his problem was almost always a mystery to be solved. Only a few times did those mysteries really impinge on his life.

For other kinds of stories–quests, for example, which are common in fantasy and even some science fiction–that won’t work. We have to put the characters in real danger, chase them up trees and throw rocks at them.

But, you know, even that is a kind of escape. Going along, from our safe arm chairs, on hair-raising adventures or romantic adventures, takes us out of the here and now temporarily. Some days, we all really need that. 

Good thing those stories are fun to write, too, isn’t it?

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