Essays, writing tips

Finally. Revision Help for the Hopeless Writer

Revising is one of the most difficult aspects of writing for many writers. The reasons vary from not having a good beta-reader or critique network, to lack of editing skills or lack of confidence in our own editing skills, lack of money to pay someone to do the job for us, etc. Like many of you, I’ve experienced those issues at various stages of my writing career. Not only do those problems cause stress, but they can delay the completion of a manuscript or result in the production of an inferior one.

Head in Hands

My published books in the Rise of the Papilion Trilogy took many years to complete, largely for the reasons mentioned above. At the completion of each book, the sense of accomplishment and joy I felt were immediately followed by terror:  What the heck do I do now, and how in the world can I afford it???

Recently, I’ve been attending various free webinars on subjects like book marketing and tools to facilitate the book writing process. Last night, I attended one on the basics of good revision called, The 3 Levels of Fiction Revision & Why You Must Know Them, hosted by Laura Backes and Jon Bard.

The content was great. Simple, concise, informative and also a good refresher. I learned to write not by attending creative writing courses or workshops by doing the work and learning from my mistakes. The lack of formal training has always been a source of anxiety for me, as it leads to constant second-guessing and a disorganized method of writing and revision. The webinar was helpful in putting a framework on what revision actually is and the essentials for doing it right.

But, then there was the introduction of a new revision tool they created called, Manuscript Magic. It’s only been out a few months, and it’s the first time I’ve heard of it. But it is an online program that takes revision to a new level for someone like me who learned on the go and is still learning on the go.

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The program breaks the revision process down from revising a chapter at a time to revising a scene at a time, which is more manageable and less daunting. There are teaching videos which elaborate on writing concepts, as well as checklists that point out specific aspects of your story to consider while offering change options. Ultimately, it seems to be a practical writer’s guide to editing and revision, or maybe better, a tool that teaches how to shift from Writer Mode to Editor Mode, and to do it with confidence.

So, I bought the membership. It wasn’t cheap but I’ve paid more than that for simple proofreads, forget about a full manuscript edit. And, that’s saying a lot because I NEVER buy the programs or tools or packages offered at the end of webinars. But this program interested me because it’s a once-time purchase not a monthly subscription and, if it works 1) it would drastically improve my manuscripts in less time that it normally takes and with less frustration, 2) could reduce the amounts I would normally spend on editing by presenting the editor/proof-reader with a cleaner manuscript 3) I can learn to become a better writer and reviser 4) it could help me improve and complete the other WIPs wallowing on the backburner these last few years. In other word, I might be able to write better, complete projects faster, and ultimately publish better books.

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I plan to start with the first book I wrote, The Eagle’s Gift. It was a passion project that got ruined after too many crits from the review site I joined resulted in a jumbled mess. At the time, I was too inexperienced and in love with the book to handle all the feedback. The story never recovered, but I am hopeful this program can help me identify the problems and fix them.

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So, is my gamble worth it? Can the program deliver? I joined up last night and all the promised bonuses (dedicated Facebook support, free advice and counsel from well-known editing professionals active in the business) for signing up right away were available. The Facebook group is small but active and people are posting about their positive experiences. So, good start. I’ll keep you all posted and let you know how it all works out.

Essays

Update on Wolf’s Bane and Excerpt

Here’s the update on Wolf’s Bane, the sequel to my self-published book, The Purple Morrow. The formatting for the ebook version is finished! The active Table of Contents is complete, chapter heads, and alternating Headers and Footers are working…OMG, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Here’s something about this process that I thought I’d share. Last week, as I was building up towards the formatted version, I realized I still needed help in order to finish the project right. As some of you know, this is an old manuscript: about 2 years old, maybe more. It has gone through so many revisions, rewrites and beta-reads I’ve lost count. I did manage to find a great proofreader. But something inside me still said, “Wait.” Now, I know no book is ever perfect–I’ve found errors in books published by big publishing houses, as I’m sure some of you have. Still, I want to do everything I can to make sure my readers have the best reading experience possible. So, because I can no longer see the errors, even obvious ones, I did something I haven’t done before: I asked for test readers. Three responded: one who read the first book and two who have not. It’ll be interesting to see the results.

Now, there are a few specific reasons I did this. To save time, I’ll just copy the message I sent the test readers, as I think it explains things well:

…There are two reasons I decided to host a pre-release (test) read/review of Wolf’s Bane. The first is for marketing, word of mouth, and publicity reasons. (i.e. I asked them to note sections that might be good for taglines, excerpts, citations, etc. I also asked them write a review which I can then post on my blog/website, press-releases, interviews, etc.).  The second is because I also need a little help with the manuscript. I’ll explain: This review version is the version I intend to publish. It has been proofread and I have made the recommended changes, but I haven’t reread the final version. There are two reasons for this: a) I have read the story so many times that, even though I love the story, I just can’t reread it again. By the time I will be able to, too much time will have to pass and I won’t ever get it published, and b) I am concerned that if I reread it now, I’ll start to change things, which, again, would delay the process. As you know, any story, even good ones, can be tweaked until Kingdom come, lol So, should you notice things that don’t follow (ex. words left out, or something that reads as though it might have been added at the last minute) please note them. I’m NOT looking for another proofread or edit, but things that just might read as out of place. Also, if you see any formatting issues I might have missed, please note those as well. After staring at 400 pages over and over, I just don’t see errors anymore…

Now, I might be taking a big chance with this; I don’t know. But, at this point, it seemed like the best way to handle the situation. Once I get the readers’ comments back, I intend to update the formatted version and upload that for publishing. Fingers crossed.

Oh, and once again, my super-talented illustrator sister, Amy Hands, is working on the cover art. See below for the painting of Jeru (main character) that she did for me. She is available for other projects!

Painting by Amy Hands
Painting by Amy Hands

 

The final stage after that, is for my also super-talented and dedicated husband, Samuel, to get to the graphic designing. He’s done both my current covers (The Purple Morrow and The Eagle’s Gift WIP), so if you’ve seen them you’ve seen his work. 🙂

And lastly, here’s an excerpt from Bane for you. In this section from Usurper (chapter 1), we get to know Oren, Kelen’s adoptive father, a little more, and are introduced to a new player in the game. Oren is on his way to a meeting when he pauses to reflect on an event that might tip the scales of fate in his favor…

From dustin.wikidot.com
From dustin.wikidot.com

Though he knew he was wasting precious seconds, Oren could not stop himself from taking a few more to reflect on what had interrupted him. The very thought of it sent excitement and a deep sense of satisfaction through him. Mid-way through his nightly meditations, he had sensed an old, familiar presence, one he had not felt for at least a year. The call had been faint, yet so surprised was he to hear it whispering at the edges of his thoughts, that he had ceased his incantations mid-sentence. Instantly filled with longing as well as a lingering hatred, Oren had thrashed his way through the scrolls and quills and a selection of prized books to the bottom of an ancient cedar trunk where he had found the crystal tuning orb.

 Once seated before it, he’d wasted only a moment to consider what he was doing and how many Seer laws he was breaking. But the presence called again, more insistently this time, so Oren pushed his reservations aside and set his eyes on the crystal’s clear, reflective surface. Calling up the appropriate incantation, he whispered the words, and soon, like struck crystal, the voice rang clear. Sweet and alluring to his soul as ab-clan honey to the tongue, it also exuded an undertone of discordant tension. This was fitting, for Oren both loved and loathed the Dark Master. As a moth is drawn towards the flame of his own destruction, he did not have the power within himself to refuse the Master’s call.

Lapi shuffled further out of Oren’s way to allow him a clear path to the door. The sound of his dragging feet against the floor drew Oren’s attention back to the situation at hand. He sneered at the nearly prostrate attendant, grabbed the edges of his crystal-embossed outer robe, and then crossed them one over the other before tying them down tightly with a red, tasselled sash. At the door, Oren twirled out of the room, but not before giving the attendant another withering look. “You are correct, Lapi. I do hate to be interrupted; however, not as much as I despise being late to meet the Naagra-Oni. Something I now must do, thanks to you!”

The door slammed behind him, its ringing most certainly heard throughout the entire east wing of the temple. Oren imagined the weak-minded Lapi trembling from his fury, or better yet, fainted on the floor. And smiled.

(excerpt Dyane Forde Copyright © 2014) 

Thanks for stopping by! Have you used test readers before? How are your formatting and self-publishing attempts going? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

 

 

 

 

Stories

‘The Eagle’s Gift’ is my heart and soul. One day I’ll see it in print. Here is a section of chapter 1

The Eagle’s Gift: A Fairy Tale
Chapter 1 (part 1)
 
From the realm of the clouds, the Eagle King looked past his great, curved beak to the face of the earth. He observed the familiar patches of blue, green and brown below with the greatest of interest. From where he was, circling high above and cradled by warm currents of pristine air, the world should appear peaceful, calm. But this was not so. Terryl blinked, pained at what he did see. The land was ragged, haggard, abused. In places, the earth had been torn up, exposing its bowels of rock, tree roots and dirt for all to see. In other places, entire lakes had been turned green or brown from filth, their surfaces lined with stinking scum. No fish or other aquatic creatures lived there any longer and all the surrounding grasses had withered away or turned to swamp. Laying over it all was a thin layer of shadow, making the world appear dusky, like twilight.
More like the skulking form of a spectre.
Men had done this. Fuelled by hatred and fear of their neighbours, they had scorched the earth with pollution and war machines, heaping insult and injury on the land as well as on their enemies. As he flew above, Terryl could sense the spirit of the earth writhing, and he was struck by an unshakable impression that time was running out. After all, how much more could it endure before humans strangled its essence from existence?
Having reached the end of his tour of the outlying lands, Terryl turned and began to fly back to Eagle’s Perch. The wind turned cold now that he was heading north, and it grazed against him, as cold as tempered metal. Above him, the sun shone, but even its golden rays could not fully penetrate the strange darkness that seemed to pervade the land. Worse, the shadow seemed to be darkening.
At last, the green, fertile lands of his domain, one of the few to remain untouched by the growing chaos, came into view. With a twinge of guilt, Terryl sighed with contentment. He circled around the Perch a few times, allowing the watchmen to take note of his arrival, and once satisfied that all appeared in order in the kingdom, he turned towards his aerie, also known as the Throne Aerie. It was a large but simple affair, made up of twisted, interlocking tree branches with leaves and mud tucked into the spaces, and it was perched in the crook of Eagle Land’s highest mountain, near its peak. Below, dotting the rest of the rocky ranges that jutted out from the earth, were found the many aeries which comprised the city of Eagle’s Perch. Cool spring air buffeted them relentlessly as it tore through the mountainous peaks, while dark thunder clouds threatened to unleash their cold, wet burden. Terryl looked up in surprise. He hadn’t noticed the clouds gathering for a storm.
When he landed in the Throne Aerie, he had only enough time to dip his head to tuck in a few stray feathers on his breast with his beak before Lorin, his chief adviser, suddenly dropped into the nest.
 “My lord, a few words, if you will?” He was breathing hard from exertion. A group of lesser advisors and a few scouts soon also arrived at the aerie after Lorin, and they also waited at its edges until they were bidden to approach.
“I have only just returned, Lorin. Can it not wait until I have refreshed myself? In fact, you also appear to be in need of some refreshing. What has caused you to behave with such hastiness?” Terryl gestured beside him at a hollowed out section of a tree stump where water from that morning’s dew had gathered. “Please, take some.”
“Forgive me, my lord,” Lorin said, shaking his head in refusal while backing up a pace. He ducked his beak towards his chest and averted his eyes. “I hope you do not think me impetuous, only I have only been anticipating your return for some time now.”
Terryl sighed. For Lorin to have behaved in such an uncharacteristic fashion, he knew that whatever troubled him must be important. He also felt compassion for him, understanding that Lorin’s pride of discretion and temperance must have made this an embarrassing scene for him. Terryl gestured with his wing, indicating that Lorin should enter the presence of his king. The advisor obeyed, and was followed by the small group of lesser advisors and scouts. They bowed before Terryl and then took their places at a respectful distance behind Lorin. King Terryl greeted the new arrivals with a nod.
“Master Lorin, you do not need to fear speaking your mind with me. I am your king, but I am also your friend of many, many years. Have we not earned these old, fraying feathers together?“
Lorin looked up, his eyes wide with horror. “Do not say such a thing, my lord! It is unthinkable that my king should suffer old and frayed feathers! Your groomsman should be ashamed to allow it!”
Terryl laughed. “Ah, Lorin. You never did have much of a sense of humour. You always see things clearly, as they truly are whether for the good or for the bad. I suppose that is what makes you an excellent advisor. I am ready now, old friend. Speak your mind.”
Lorin took a moment to settle himself after his outburst. “The world of humankind is dying, my lord,” he stated at last in a grave voice.  “If the humans expire–”
“I know,” Terryl said, interrupting. “It is true my weekly tour of our lands and of those neighbouring ours took longer than expected. However, the ravages to the earth grow increasingly extensive, requiring that I fly farther out each time. Today, I saw that the damage has almost reached the land of Nardin. I have always expected this to happen, only not this soon. It is quite troubling. Not only that, but something even more unsettling is transpiring, something I have never before seen. Have you noticed the haze?”
“Do you mean the layer of darkness that is spreading across the lands? Yes, this is what I was hastening to tell you. There are reports it is coming from Lozera.“ Those who had not known the news broke out in a flurry of exclamations.
“Lozera did you say?” Terryl’s voiced voice rose over the chattering.
“Yes, my lord. It was confirmed by the scouts.”
“This is not good news, Lorin.”
Everyone was silenced by Terryl’s statement. One by one, Terryl called on the scouts to share their reports concerning the troubles affecting the lands. Each report brought new depths of concern to the listeners. Eagle heads bobbed up and down with excitement, and squeaks and squawks could be heard punctuating the sound of the wind as it blew around the peaks of the Perch. Through it all, Terryl could sense their eyes on him, each of them eager to know how their king would respond. Would he finally act to save mankind in their time of need? But Terryl was not easily swayed by the expectations of others, and he dismissed the questions he knew they were asking from his mind. With an air of detachment he did not truly feel, he held his peace while carefully considering all the reports presented by the advisors and scouts. When he was satisfied, he indicated that Lorin should speak.
The adviser obliged. “As you know, Lystra is slowly wasting away from drought, and Orleans is nearly destroyed by civil war. Aside from Nardin, these are the only two realms populated by humans, and they are closest to us. There is little doubt that their troubles will soon breach our borders. Not to mention that the haze as you call it, sire, has been gathering for some time. I am afraid that if it is not stopped soon, it will consume us all.”
“I have only just seen it for the first time.”
“That is because it seems to have originated in Lozera.”
Lorin’s gaze met Terryl’s. “I see,” said the king. He did not add that he hadn’t known about the haze’s origins for the simple reason that he never went near that city, a fact they were both aware of. But the unspoken fact hung in the air between them.
Terryl returned his attention to the subject at hand. Both Lystra and Orleans were heavily populated, and at one time, wealthy Western kingdoms. The former had been rich in farming, while the latter had been a commercial centre, providing the neighbouring kingdoms with grain, textiles and lumber. He knew the world of men would be devastated by the losses of these important cities.
Terryl turned aside, away from the watching eyes of those gathered to allow him the privacy to think. Evil was spreading from nation to nation like a plague, weakening even the strongest kingdoms. Only a very few noble cities still stood against its onslaught, but for how much longer?
Evil. Humans could not know of its true origin, but he did. In fact, he knew the enemy’s face very well, for they had vied against each other many times in the past until his foe had finally prevailed. It was because Terryl had faltered that evil now ran rampant across the earth. It was his fault, yet he was bound against doing anything to cure it. He could only endure the consequences of his failure. He was an impotent king.
No, not entirely impotent. A bold, new idea had been germinating for some time, and in response to the fingers of despair which had begun to creep into his thoughts, it broke through to the forefront of his mind. Inspired, Terryl turned to face the eagles. “Friends, what the world needs now is hope. We have observed these unlucky events unfold long enough. The time for watching and waiting past; it is time to act. If someone could be found who can restore hope to humankind, perhaps then, the world could endure.”
Lorin looked off into the distance while he considered the statement. Eagle’s Land was still relatively unmarred by the darkness. From the Throne Aerie, the whole of it was displayed, from the roiling green sea in the east, to the red, sandy beach abutting it, to the wild, green plains that seemed to stretch on forever to the north. He seemed to find particular pleasure in observing the rolling beauty of the valleys in the west, stained green with lush vegetation, and the aged forests which on sunny days rang with the songs of birds. He sighed softly, but to Terryl who knew his friend well, the expelled breath seemed a manifestation of his growing fatigue. When the adviser spoke, the hollowness of his voice confirmed the impression. “But who could this person be? Why has he not already shown himself?”
Concerned, Terryl observed Lorin, finally deciding that the two must meet privately. He trusted and relied on his chief adviser implicitly, and it was unthinkable that he should fall into despair. More than that, the possibility that the fingers of hopelessness should finally reach his own people was unnerving.
“It is likely he is not even aware of his potential. He must be found and he must be convinced.”
The adviser nodded slowly, obviously still evaluating the proposed plan. “I perceive you have some idea as to where this person might be found.” His tone made the statement sound like a question.
“Nardin,” Terryl answered without hesitation. Lorin looked at him, surprise evident in his eyes. Terryl explained, “It was once one of the world’s most beautiful realms, and though it is on the brink of destruction, the world still looks to it as a beacon of hope. As long as it stands, hope remains.”
“To Nardin then.” Lorin nodded again, slowly, as though trying to convince himself that this was the most logical plan of action. He glanced at his king, whose massive figure was strong, immovable, and suddenly the adviser’s eyes regained their usual lustre. He turned briskly to the scouts and said, “Go and learn what you can of how the kingdom fares. Be wary and be wise. The fate of the world may depend on what news you bring back to your king.”
The team of five bowed, then took to the air and was gone. Terryl took Lorin aside to a quiet corner of the aerie where they talked together for a long time.
D. Forde (2011, revised 2013)