Excellent tips on how to nail that first chapter. Click link to read the post:
Give and Take is one of the most viewed short stories on this blog. Recently, I got a chance to tweak the story a tad and submit it to Dark Helix ezine, which features speculative fiction. This edition’s theme is strong women, which is why I submitted Give and Take; the main character features a different kind of strength and resilience than what most people would expect.
So please check it out! It’s free, downloadable, and a great way to discover other female creative voices.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks to Honey Blue Tea: Views and Reviews from the Electric Chair for this author interview! Click here to read it.
The Struggle was Real
So. Wolf’s Bane…more like Dyane’s Bane. Because that’s exactly what it felt like to write this beast.
When I had finished The Purple Morrow, I was on a bit (a lot!) of a high. It was the second book I had written, but it was the only one of the two that was publish-worthy. And, after doing the run-around, research, trying and erring, I finally published the book. Yes!
So, now I was on to book 2, Wolf’s Bane. But this time around, I struggled with something I hadn’t before: fear of disappointing. The first book had been well-received, something that, especially for a first-timer, felt like a miracle. And after slaving away at Morrow for 2-3 years, I had come to love the characters. I wanted to write them a great story while not disappointing readers.
I’ll tell you one thing. If you’re writing a book, don’t worry about disappointing your readers. It’s impossible to focus on telling a great story when you’re filled with anxiety. Write the book that’s in your heart, trust your characters, and trust yourself. If you do those things, the book should take shape. Okay, that was more than one thing. But, in writing Bane, I found these points to be true. Once I stopped stressing and just wrote what I was feeling and what felt right for the characters, the book came together. I’m pleased and proud of the result. And, in the end, the book ended up being well-received to boot.
Another struggled I faced was figuring out how to write a ‘bridge’ book, meaning a book that bridges the events in book 1 and the trilogy’s conclusion. How do you keep the story interesting while not giving too much away? And how do you end the book so that it’s satisfying to the current story while not actually ending the overarching story prematurely?
That was tough, and I struggled with that for a while. In the end, I introduced new elements and characters, deepened the world-building and developed the magic/spiritual foundations of the story, while working hard on character development. I enjoyed bringing that wretch, Oren, to life so much, and the antagonistic yet nurturing relationship between Seylem and Kelen was a blast to write. Working on Jeru’s development was harder, as he’s my Every Man who needed a believable hero arc, something I’d never done before. So, yes, there were many, many challenges to overcome.
Wolf’s Bane is the first time I had to develop a magic system in a story. I’d never done that before, and I was lucky to have a friend at the time who guided me through the process and let me bounce ideas off him.
I experimented with tone, lyrical style, and integrated elements of poetry. It probably sounds weird, but I allowed myself the freedom to tell the story using elements that I felt were needed to do it right. Of course, that made editing and rewrites a challenge, especially the poetry-inspired sections but thankfully, I had a poet-friend to edit that.
So, as I did for Morrow, I’ll include an excerpt. This is from Usurper, Chapter 2:
Oren hurried to the Naagra-Oni’s chambers. The hallway stretched straight as an arrow in front of him, and a lush runner spanned its length. The carpet was the Ministry’s gift to them, a measure to counter the perpetual cold clinging to the stone floors. Arched, stone doors, unadorned except for the iron rings bolted into their surfaces, lined the corridor on both sides. Other Naagra of more lowly stature slept behind them. Slept, or read. Or plotted. Naagra were always plotting. Oren would know, since he had been at it the longest. And, if he were so bold, which he was, he would even go so far as to claim to be the best at it.
Oren wrapped his cloak tighter around him against the cold, but the dampness permeated the four thick layers of linens and furs. It even crept through his tiger-seal boots, so that his toes began to tingle. Outside, the wind howled, battering the temple walls. Oren thought how ironic it was that the wind appeared to fight so hard to find a way in when all he wanted was to escape, even into the midst of a late-spring blizzard.
He hated Ambroze, the Naagra-Oni, hated his gloating smile and his silky voice that, at first, sounded pleasant, even friendly, until one discerned the venom lurking underneath. The Master Seer, though, never bothered to hide his disdain from Oren. It shone through his ice blue eyes and that cursed, mocking smile. Oren would much prefer to test himself against the tempest blowing outside than spend ten minutes with the man. Only curiosity, not to mention the command to present himself at Ambroze’s chambers exactly twenty minutes before, forced him to continue moving down the corridor, around the bend and up two flights of stairs into the north wing; the wing that had once been his.
“One day,” Oren swore as he swished down the darkened corridor, “I will take back my place, you cursed upstart! Then we’ll see who is left grinning with such disdain!” For now, Oren doubled his pace. He was still a subordinate–though the highest ranked subordinate–and it would not do to irritate the Master Seer.
He arrived at the massive double doors just as the gong struck the half hour mark. He would slow-boil Lapi in oil for making him late!
Oren shoved the great doors with all the strength contained in his wiry body. They groaned open. A blast of hot air met him, instantly turning to mist once it confronted the icy air from the hall. Oren waded through the cloud, emerging like some sort of wraith, and found himself standing in a great, round room. The back half was blocked off by a series of dark-coloured screens. The ceiling was hidden in gloom, but Oren knew it was adorned with the painted images of Anyul, the Snow god and his minions, Ice and Frost. They leered at him from above, shaming him into false humility as he stood before the Naagra-Oni. No windows pocked the walls of the room, and the torches were not lit. The only light came from dripping, black candles scattered throughout and the massive fires glowing in their hearths.
“You are late.” The words were clipped, and they cut like knives.
“My apologies, Naagra-Oni,” Oren answered, bristling. “I came as soon as I received your summons.”