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Archive for September, 2012

Well, unless lightning strikes, it looks like I’ll be in revision mode for most of the rest of this year. Being more or less the three-quarter mark of the year, it’s a good time to make plans and set goals.

  1. MAGE STORM: I actually completed the revisions on this ahead of schedule. I’ve got one reader for the revised version and I probably need to look for one or two more. Then, of course, incorporate anything coming from the revisions that I feel is right for the story. I’m feeling really good about this one. So I’ll also need to go back over the query and synopsis. This one is likely to go out to agents again early next year.
  2. BLOOD IS THICKER: I’ve started the revisions to this one. This is actually the first round of revisions and in places it’s probably one of the roughest rough drafts I’ve written in quite a while. I wrote the first draft early last year and had a few alpha readers on it, but I haven’t touched it since last May (busy with the first draft of THE BARD’S GIFT). Now I need to read through it and incorporate as many of the revision notes as I can. Then I’ll be able to see what to do with it next. This is the sequel to BLOOD WILL TELL.
  3. Time permitting, I have a couple of short stories I might take a second look at. “Infected With Magic” is the short story that spawned MAGE STORM. It also got me an honorable mention from Writers of the Future. I won’t undertake another round of revisions on it, though, unless I can figure out a better ending. Endings are still my Achilles heel when it comes to short stories. I can land a novel no problem, but short stories, especially ones under 5,000 words, are just a lot harder for me. I’m more likely to take another pass at “The Seeker”. I’ve gotten some feedback on this one recently and I think I finally have a better idea of what I need to do with it. We’ll see.
  4. There’s also a novelette, “Becoming Lioness”.  I’m going to put this one up to my writers’ group in October. After I shine up whatever they find, I’ll probably e-publish it. It’s an awkward length for traditional publication and it’s already been to most places I’d be willing to send it. It just came back from the last one after 230 days on submission.
  5. Then it’ll be time to get back to THE BARD’S GIFT and get it shined up for the writers’ group to read in January. Fortunately, that one is a pretty clean first draft. It needs the usual (for me) things added to it–antagonists motives and a stronger presence of the antagonist, setting descriptions, etc.–but I think the draft will stand pretty well without major plot changes. At least until after I get a few reader reactions.
  6. If I just get an itch to start something new, I’ve got the outline for THE SHAMAN’S CURSE/MAGIC’S FOOL (I don’t know which title I’ll choose for the third time around) to play with.
  7. I also really need to use this time to set up a marketing plan for the things I’ve e-published. Something I really should have done first, I know. But I know me and I knew I wouldn’t do it without some skin in the game. Now that my head’s not completely in the first draft of THE BARD’S GIFT every time I sit down at the computer, maybe I can make some headway on this. I’m going to have to start laying out concrete, short-term goals to get it done. Marketing was never my favorite subject.

Well, that ought to be enough to keep me out of trouble for a while.

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Voice in writing is very hard to describe, except to point to examples that illustrate it. It’s also something that develops over time–one of the reasons that many of us have to write a few unpublishable things before we reach that magical level. Sometimes, it’s the thing that allows you to recognize the work of one author over another.

But voice is more than just authorial voice. There’s also the voice of a story (a fable should sound different than an adventure story) and the voices of characters.

There’s no doubt that voice is important, especially in young adult stories, but it’s not more important than the story. In my opinion, nothing is. And the voice has to match the story.

A story told in first person is almost always going to have a stronger voice than one told in third person. In fact, in my opinion, it should, since in essence it purports to be the character telling the story. Done right, it should sound like that character. I’ve seen several novels that used first person without making it sound substantially different than a narrator’s voice.

In contrast, a story told in third person is mainly going to be in a narrator’s voice (and probably a lot closer to the author’s voice). Even in third person, though, the closer the story is to the point-of-view character, the stronger the voice.

But, that doesn’t mean that in order to have stronger voice, every story should be told in first person or even close limited third person. That depends on the demands of the story.

For example, stories that have two (or more) point of view characters can be difficult to pull off in first person. First, it’s confusing to read if both characters are written in first person. Who “I” is changes from chapter to chapter or even from scene to scene. Second, two first-person point of view characters probably ought to sound different from each other–which is probably pretty difficult to pull off. I say that, because I haven’t yet seen an example that really did pull it off.

I’ve written a couple of short stories in first person.–one because the subject just seemed to demand that closeness to the character and the other because I just started hearing the story in first person in my head and decided not to fight it. I haven’t–yet–written a whole novel in first person. I probably will some day, when a story tells me that’s what it needs.

In the meantime, I think of all the great stories I would have missed if I’d demanded that everything I read had the kind of voice found in a first-person narrative.

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I’ve posted before about my difficulties with a particular story.

It started life as THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, my first completed novel (if you don’t count that thing I wrote in college). There really wasn’t much wrong with the story, but there was a lot wrong with my abilities as a writer and story-teller. So, I left it alone for a few years.

But I still really like those characters and that story. So, last year I rewrote a portion of that story as middle grade. It worked at least reasonably well. That version, MAGIC’S FOOL, still needed a little work, but I was pretty happy with it. And then, during WriteOnCon, I discovered that agents and editors don’t like stories that start off with thirteen-year-old protagonists. This was a problem because, for this story to work, I really couldn’t make him any younger. Drat. I had laid out several possible options for how I might proceed.

Well, last week, while I was trying to get THE BARD’S GIFT out of my head so I could start revisions on MAGE STORM, I sat down and as an exercise outlined the original novel. I have to say that was an eye-opener. It really highlighted some of the weaknesses in the original writing. I mean, I knew it, but it’s different when you see it in color-coded black and white, so to speak.

Anyway, my subconscious obviously kept playing around with the idea while I was working on other things. And then it forced me to sit down and type out a new outline. It’s the original, nearly-complete storyline with a couple of things left out that just really didn’t work well for a young adult story. Yes, it will be YA with a boy protagonist. The timeline is compressed from eight years (which was one of the weaknesses of the original story) to about two. And I like it.

There are a couple of things not clearly defined, but I’m a discovery writer; this is way more outline than I usually have at the beginning of a story. In fact, I’m sure that I’ll probably diverge from this outline at least once. That’s just what happens.

So, I guess I know what my next starting-from-scratch project will be, likely some time next year. Between now and then, I have to finish the revisions for MAGE STORM (I have a reader lined up who happens to be a great critique partner), revise BLOOD IS THICKER, possibly work on a couple of short stories, if I can squeeze them in, and then do the second and third drafts of THE BARD’S GIFT to have it ready for readers in January.

Looks like I’ll be busy for the foreseeable future, which is just how I like it.

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Just a (relatively) quick status update today.

Monday, I finished the first draft of THE BARD’S GIFT. Yay! I took longer with that than with any first draft since my first novel. Now it rests for a while before I go back for revisions. I have it slated to be read by my writing group in January.

It’s good I have something to celebrate because my chances of getting into the second round of the GUTGAA (Gearing Up to Get an Agent) agent pitch contest aren’t looking too good. That’s a disappointment, but with four anonymous judges making the picks, you just can’t ever tell what particular kinds of stories will appeal to them–just like with agents.

Meanwhile:

Yesterday, I went through and outlined the existing version of that first novel, THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, as a way to help me decide what direction I want to take with this story. That was a very interesting exercise and certainly exposed some of the weaknesses. It also proved to be a pretty good way to get the last story out of my head and clear it for the next. Whatever I do with this will be a rewrite, but I need to decide on audience first. After I play around with it some, I may just submit this to my writing group for some brainstorming.

Now, it’s time to get back to the revisions on my middle grade fantasy, MAGE STORM. I know exactly what I want to do, so once I get into it it shouldn’t take long. 

Then I think I’ll get to the revisions on BLOOD IS THICKER (paranormal romance). I might even squeeze in a couple of short stories that need some attention.

And then it’ll be time to go back to THE BARD’S GIFT.

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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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If you’re here looking for my GUTGAA Pitch Polish entry, go here.

I’m within sight of finishing the first draft of my YA alternate history, THE BARD’S GIFT, probably next week. So it’s time to look up and start thinking about what I’ll work on next, while the first draft cools a bit.

I have plenty of choices. Revisions to MAGE STORM are certainly at the top of the list. I have another story in first draft that I need to get back to, BLOOD IS THICKER, the sequel to BLOOD WILL TELL. And there are a couple of short stories that I need to polish up. I have a pretty good idea what to do with all of those stories. And that’s certainly enough to keep me busy until I can go back to work on THE BARD’S GIFT.

But, even though I may not start working on it yet, there’s one more story I’ll at least be thinking about as I try to figure out what to do next. This story was my first completed novel (if you don’t count the thing I wrote in college–and I don’t). In that incarnation, as THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, I thought it was a mainstream fantasy. Now, that version has so many serious flaws, I’m not even going to try to list them here, but, in spite of those flaws, I still love the characters and the whole arc of the story (which was always intended to be a series).

Therefore, last year about this time, I started a rewrite, this time as middle grade. I called it MAGIC’S FOOL and had even started the sequel, MAGIC’S APPRENTICE. The original story had to be changed, of course. Some elements had to be dropped and in order to tell a complete story in about half the length I had to choose a different central conflict. I like the results and was planning on going back for another round of revisions and then polish it up.

That was until WriteOnCon, where I found out that agents and editors don’t want stories with main characters betweeen twelve and fourteen years old. Bummer. My main character in MAGIC’S FOOL was thirteen. (He had started out as fifteen in THE SHAMAN’S CURSE.)

So now, I have to go back to the drawing board and decide what to do with this story. It’s not an easy choice, like MAGE STORM, in which I can easily change or delete a couple of elements and make the protagonist younger, say around eleven. Thirteen was already pushing the limits on just how young this character can credibly be.

So, as far as I can see right now, my choices are:

  1. “Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead.” Just ignore this age limit or maybe delete the one or two references to the protagonists age and go ahead with it as it is. This feels a little like trying to swim upstream (even more than is normally the case).
  2. Keep the story as it is now (more or less) and just make the main character a bit older. Go back to fifteen as he was in the original. To do this credibly, the story would have to be expanded by about half again as much (from around 50,000 words to somewhere around 75,000 words). There are things I could expand. There are also a couple of subplots that could easily be added–and which would add depth to the overall plot. I’d be betting that agents and editors really mean it when they say they want boy YA stories.
  3. And the third possibility would be to go back to the original story line and central conflict. I’d still have to rewrite it, of course. That would actually be better and easier than trying to revise it. This version has what may be a more satisfying central conflict. That’s a draw, frankly. Now, I could still go two ways with this. I could still try to make it YA. There really aren’t any plot elements that are inappropriate for YA, although I might handle one of them a bit differently. Or I could just leave that alone and let it be a mainstream (adult, but not in a sexy way) story.

I’ll be giving this some thought as I work on the other revisions I’ve got stacked up.

 

 

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Well, since I completely forgot to even try to enter the Pitch Polish portion of Gearing Up to Get an Agent, I did the next best thing and signed up for the blog hop. Actually, this may work out just as well.

My revisions to MAGE STORM have been delayed. (I’m withing smelling distance of “The End on my WIP, and I’m not going to slow down now.) Therefore, by default, I’ve chosen my other completed work, FIRE AND EARTH, for the pitch polish. 

Query:

Thanks for the feedback so far. Here’s a revised version:

Seventeen-year-old Casora loses her battle against the berserker curse she was born with when her country is invaded. The curse turns her into an unstoppable warrior, but that’s no use to her people when she must be exiled for the ferocious temper that goes along with it. She turns mercenary while searching for a way to tame the berserker and go home. Hope comes in an unexpected form when she’s sent to rescue the scholarly Prince Tiaran from the same marauders that vanquished her home. 

The rescue leaves them stranded on the wrong side of the city walls by the besieging army. Now they–and Casora’s mercenary band–are the only ones in a position to stop the invaders. With Tiaran’s special knowledge of the enemy, they devise a plan to stop their common enemy by taking out the warrior-king who seems bent on conquering their world.

 A battle against the odds isn’t the only thing Casora has to deal with. It’s become much more personal than defeating the enemy or freeing her people. Tiaran is the only one who’s ever called her curse a blessing or been able to calm her berserker rage. If she has a prayer of finding the serenity to conquer her curse, Casora must decide if she can believe that there’s any future for a battle-scarred warrior and a prince.

FIRE AND EARTH is a 77,000-word young adult fantasy. Readers who liked Kristin Cashore’s GRACELING will enjoy FIRE AND EARTH.

Thank you for your time.

When her country is invaded, seventeen-year-old Casora loses her battle against the berserker curse she was born with. The curse turns her into an unstoppable warrior, but that’s no use to her family when she must be exiled for the ferocious temper that goes along with it. She turns mercenary while searching for a way to tame the berserker. Hope comes in an unexpected form when she’s sent to rescue the scholarly Prince Tiaran.

The rescue leaves them stranded on the wrong side of the city walls by the besieging army. Now they–and Casora’s mercenary band–are the only ones in a position to stop the invaders. Casora teaches Tiaran how to fight. His special knowledge of the enemy allows them to devise a plan that just might work.

Even with Tiaran’s plan, the odds will be against them, but the situation becomes still more complicated for Casora. Now it’s more personal than defeating the enemy or freeing her people. Tiaran is the only one who’s ever called her curse a blessing or been able to calm her berserker rage. If she has a prayer of finding the serenity to conquer her curse, Casora must decide if she can believe that there’s any future for a battle-scarred warrior and a prince. 

FIRE AND EARTH is a 77,000-word young adult fantasy. Readers who liked Kristin Cashore’s GRACELING will enjoy FIRE AND EARTH. 

Thank you for your time.

First 150 words (more or less):

Casora stepped into the practice circle and grinned as she saluted her opponent. The sword was not her best weapon, but the chance to spar with Marcian was too good to pass up. The only sanctioned time they could touch at all was during such training duels. Oh, they could hold hands occasionally, but anything more would have to wait until they’d completed their required service in the war band known as the Deathless.

Of course, there wouldn’t be much chance to touch in a sword match, either. On the other hand, if she disarmed him, he could turn it into a wrestling match. He’d win, of course. Her speed and agility wouldn’t be much use against his size and strength in that kind of fight, but there’d be plenty of touching. Every inch of her skin tingled just at the thought.

Marcian returned her salute and took up his stance, giving her the first move.

Okay, so that’s 156 words. I went to the end of the sentence.

Bring on the critiques and I’ll return the favor.

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