Posts Tagged ‘first pages’

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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As I’ve been working through the first round of revisions to BLOOD IS THICKER, I’ve also been rereading parts of A CIVIL CAMPAIGN by Lois McMaster Bujold. Not just because it’s my favorite of the Vorkosigan Saga books, though it is. Also because it’s a good model for how a smart man can blow up his own love life–and then fix it again by realizing his own mistake.

That’s one of the things that happens in BLOOD WILL TELL, although obviously in a very different way, and it didn’t come off quite right in the first draft. It was too flat and a bit stereotypical. So, how to fix it. Well, it never hurts to try to pick up pointers from somebody who handled a similar situation extremely well.

I think I’ve made it better. It still may need some tweaking, but that’s what revisions are for.

BTW, I’ve finally built up some momentum in this one. I’ve passed the half-way point in this revision. Yay!

That’s good, because I’m very soon going to have three revision projects going at once:

  1. The ongoing revisions to MAGE STORM as critiques come in.
  3. And the start of the first round of revisions to THE BARD’S GIFT.

And that doesn’t count three (soon to be four) short stories that need some attention.

Well, at least I know I won’t get stuck. I’ll always be able to switch to something else if I do.

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First, a little status.

I made it into the first round of the GUTGAA Agent Pitch! Yay! Man that was competitive–in the sense of being able to click on send really, really fast. Now it’s fingers crossed that I make it through to the second round.

Also, I’m within a chapter of writing “THE END” at the bottom of the first draft of THE BARD’S GIFT. Whew! TBG will be my ninth completed novel. (We won’t talk about the first three, okay? I’ve got to work on revisions of two others while TBG cools. And one has been tabled for the time being.) It still feels great to get to “THE END”–or even close to it.

Now to the main topic.

I’m currently contemplating the possibility of working up–and polishing–another version of the query for FIRE AND EARTH. Not a new version to replace the current one (version number seven), but a whole new and separate query. After all, you do it for resumes, rght?

See, FIRE AND EARTH has two point-0f-view characters. I’ve consciously written the query from Casora’s story but, if I’m honest, Tiaran has a strong story, too, even though he didn’t even show up until Chapter 5.

And now, as I research agents to query, I find that at least some are actively looking for boy stories. Well . . . but to get their attention I’d have to write another version of the query. And then the fact that Ti doesn’t come in until Chapter 5 could be a problem. He probably wouldn’t even be in the sample pages.

Hmm. Probably not. I’ll just wait until I get the revisions to MAGE STORM completed. That’s a legitimate boy story, with a single point-of-view character.

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Wow. Got right to work writing and almost forgot to blog. Oops.

Well, I’m still in the middle (almost exactly) of my revisions to “The Music Box”. Some of that is fixing problems with the story, but a lot of it is adding back in world building details that I’d either deleted or left out trying to make it fit into a more publishable length.

I think I’ve managed to spread out that info dump problem I mentioned in my last post. Let’s see what you think. Here’s the first page or so:

Liri paced across her darkened room. Everyone else was sensibly napping during the hottest part of the day, but there wasn’t anything Liri wanted less than to fall asleep. She didn’t even dare lie down for fear she’d doze off and have the same nightmare again.

As his sister, Liri had been the one to help prepare Eralan’s body for burial. She’d wanted to spare his widow and she was very glad she had. Jenae didn’t need to see that. Liri had seen all of his wounds and the other marks, enough to know the truth. Eralan’s had not been a clean warrior’s death on the battlefield. He’d been tortured to death. And now, scenes of what Eralan must have endured haunted Liri’s dreams.

She needed movement, more than she could get in this confined space. Sometimes when she danced, she could lose herself in the music and shut out everything else. She couldn’t dance here, though. She’d be sure to waken someone. There was a quiet spot out in the garden where she wouldn’t disturb anyone.

Liri picked up her music box and padded silently down the corridor. The box had been her brother’s last gift to her, less than a sevenday before his death. Odd that it should be her greatest comfort now. For a moment, she stroked the smooth, inlaid wood, feeling its texture. It must have been an expensive gift, because it undeniably had a touch of magic bound within it. One side of Liri’s mouth quirked up. Eralan had joked that the music box was supposed to help her find her true love and she’d laughed at him for his naïveté.

Falling in love was not something to be desired for a princess. Liri wouldn’t be allowed to choose her husband, after all. Her marriage would be used to formalize some alliance for her father. When that day came, even falling in love with her own husband would be a risk. Their mother’s fate proved that. Love was a weakness that other players of the Game could exploit.

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Well, this is why I like to have multiple projects to work on. I can let THE BARD’S GIFT simmer a bit more, while I work out how to bring my main characters firmly together in a short amount of time and in just about one more chapter. I want it to feel like the end of the world to them when they’re parted, but I can’t spend half the book getting there. That’s a tall order and I need to do some more brainstorming on it.

Multiple projects are wonderful for this. I don’t have to lose productivity; I can just switch to something else–in this case, a bit of editing.

  1. I’ve had some ideas about that ill-fated science fiction story of mine, “Apocalypse Cruise”. I think maybe, just maybe, I can fix it–more conflict and a more satisfying ending. Actually, the ending won’t change. Just a bit more build up may make it work better. It’s worth trying, at least.
  2. Now that my critique group has had a crack at it and I’ve had time to digest their comments, I need to make the revisions to “The Music Box” so I can e-publish it next month. The main revision on this one will be to put back a bit of world building that I’d removed when I was trying to make it fit into a more (traditionally) publishable word count. Novellas are a tough sell, traditionally. If I e-pub it, I don’t have to worry so much about the word count. And it’s precisely the kind of story that should do well in that venue (romance, with only a slight fantasy element).
  3. I was beginning to think that the query for FIRE AND EARTH needed a touch up. The contest below, celebrating the publication of Wilde’s Fire, has provided me with some ideas on a couple of directions I can take to improve it for the next round.
  4. The contest has also given me an idea or two on how to improve the opening of FIRE AND EARTH.

By the time I work through that list, my subconscious should have thrown up some good ideas on how to get through this part of THE BARD’S GIFT. If not, then I’ll either:

  1. Skip ahead and write around it, for now. Not my preferred course, but it can be done.
  2. Or, do a little work on the first draft of my backup, MAGIC’S APPRENTICE.

Forward, always forward.

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In celebration of having e-published BLOOD WILL TELL last week, here’s a snippet of my next writing project. Here’s the first page of THE BARD’S GIFT:

Astrid leaned into the freezing wind, staggering down the beach hunting for driftwood to feed their meager fire. She kept one eye open for anything edible. The gale felt like needles of ice penetrating her threadbare woolen dress and even the thick white bear pelt she wore as a cloak. What she longed to do was lay down and curl up around her empty belly. In sleep, she might forget how hungry she was, but that wouldn’t keep them warm through the night or put any food on her father’s table.

She’d been hungry before. It wasn’t even unusual at this time of year, but this had been the hardest and longest winter in her memory. The dried cod was all gone and there was still too much ice out in the fjord for the ships to go out to fish for more. The schools no longer teemed just offshore, as they had in her grandfather’s day.

The force of the wind doubled as she rounded the headland, almost knocking Astrid backward. She had to go farther and farther afield to find anything these days. An overpowering stench assaulted her nostrils. She looked up, seeking the source. The massive grey shape in the shallows was not a rock; it was beached whale. Food for weeks. Maybe even enough to get them through until the ships could get out of the fjord again.

She dropped her few sticks of driftwood, picked up her skirts and ran back for the long house. It would take every hand to harvest this windfall. No one would mind because they’d all have full bellies tonight for the first time in over a month.

Do  please check out the link over on the right to BLOOD WILL TELL. That isn’t just a pretty image of the cover.

Now, I’ve given myself an assignment to do something marketing related every week (besides querying FIRE AND EARTH, that is). This week it’s author’s pages–Smashwords, Amazon, Goodreads.


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 . . . you set up what kind of story you’re going to tell.

That’s a problem I’ve been having in particular with DREAMER’S ROSE. The story just isn’t everything I want it to be. Either I’m trying for too much or I’m emphasizing the wrong part of the story. Or maybe I’m all wet and just don’t have a clue. It’s possible. Wouldn’t even be the first time. That last isn’t very helpful, though, so I’ll concentrate on the other two possibilities.

So recently I’ve been passing different possible starting points by one of my writer’s groups. This month, they have the last of the four.

  1. The first failed utterly. Nobody felt they could connect with the character. Well, that explains why my last draft failed. (It’s the place I’d started the story on the last pass.)
  2. The second was flawed, but better. It could be a bit confusing starting with the antagonist, though.
  3. The third has so far been the hand’s down favorite, although it clearly still needs work. That sets the beginning of the story back to a much earlier place.
  4. The jury’s still out on the fourth. That one pushed the beginning further into the story. (It’s also the closest to where I actually started when I first began this particular story as a short story that grew into a novella that turned into a novel.)

I’m hoping that the feedback on the best place to start will help me figure out what I need to emphasize and what I should jettison to make this story be what I know it can be.

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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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