A Writing Journey

What are you reading?

I’ll admit, I went to the library after I finished The Queen of the Tearling to get the sequel – and I’ve barely touched it. I tried, I really did. But it is, if possible, worse than the first one. I even skipped ahead to see if anything caught my interest later, and it didn’t. So today I’m headed to the library again. Hopefully this time I’ll find a book that I really enjoy.

What books are you reading right now? I would love some suggestions!

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Okay, so I just got my new library card about four weeks ago. Shameful, I know. To counteract the shame, I decided to grab a book, any book, and write a review when I was finished with it. I grabbed The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. When I picked it up, I didn’t know there was any hype about it. I’d like to begin by saying: I have tremendous respect for anyone who writes a book. I don’t intend any criticisms about any book to be taken as criticisms of the author, or dislike for them.

Beware, spoilers ahead.

The book is about a young woman who has been hidden from her country for her entire life. At the beginning of the book, she is retrieved and taken to the capital to be installed as queen in place of her uncle, who has been serving as regent.

My first impressions of this book were that it was poorly written and the storytelling was sloppy. I was intrigued by the plot, though. I was interested in the “epic battle between light and darkness” that is supposed to take place between young Kelsea Raleigh, the new queen, and a “malevolent sorceress” you turns out to be the queen of a neighboring country. I’ll admit, I was only interested because I wanted to see how another author balances a heroine and villainess, as that is a key pairing in my own book. So I was willing to overlook my unfavorable first impressions to get to the meat of the story.

The first half of the book moved exceedingly slowly. Countless characters were introduced, described in annoying detail, given excruciatingly boring backstory, and barely touched on again. The main character herself was not a likable heroine. She wasn’t a Mary-Sue, because other characters didn’t like her either, but that made it almost worse. Them not liking her made Kelsea seem even more poorly written than in the first few pages. I will admit, by the end of the book I grew interested in her character, but not invested. The interest comes from an apparent descent towards villainy herself – a descent that I doubt Ms. Johansen intended.

It is clear, from Kelsea’s ending of the slave shipments to Mortmesne, her unwavering commitment to what is, supposedly, good, that she is meant to be a true hero. However, she is cold and cruel to the people around her, unwilling to give an inch of understanding (at least until the end of the book, when faced with traitor Mhurn – but I’ll get to that). She treats her subjects like silly children. In fairness, some of them act like children, but they’ve been under the regent Thomas’ guidance for nearly twenty years, and he allowed hedonistic indulgence in every way. When Kelsea refuses to try to guide these people into different ways, it comes across as the will of an intolerant ruler.

Kelsea thinks of anyone who doesn’t agree with her as below her, and unintelligent. This is especially pronounced when, obsessed with obtaining books, she degrades the captain of her guard constantly. He is trying to keep her safe in a city of people that want her dead, and she chooses to not only disrespect that task, but berate him for not agreeing with her that books are the utmost priority. The tendency continues to the end of the book, when she threatens to kill the captain if ever he disobeys her (which he has only done in order to save her life). She likewise threatens her bodyguard, who has done everything in her power to keep her safe. The only time she shows understanding is to Mhurn, a member of her guard who betrayed her more than once due to a drug addiction. With him she seeks understanding for why he did what he did, gives him morphine, and then kills him herself. In any other situation, a heroine killing a traitor herself might be honorable, but combined with her other unpleasant traits, this act only served to show that she has a thirst for blood.

Early in the book, I thought perhaps another character would have been a more interesting focus, and if Ms. Johansen continues to paint Kelsea as heroine, that is still true. However, seeing a character slip into villainy is an exceptionally engaging read, and I would be delighted if this is how the books continue.

As for the book itself, in part two I found myself skipping pages of unnecessary descriptions and conversations that added nothing to the story (but served to showcase Kelsea’s cruelty). There were many info-dumps throughout the book that could have been woven into the narrative, and many times we were outright told things that were better left to the reader to surmise. These points broke my engagement with the story. Jumps in perspective outlined what the antagonists were doing, and cut the tension of the story so much so that it was at these points that I set the book down entirely.

There was gratitude, yet poorly executed, violence throughout the book. I imagine that these acts were meant to inspire fear and worry, but they only made me disinterested. Mention such things a few times, and we understand the threat. Mention them on every page, and we become desensitized to it.

The only time I felt anything was at the very end of the book. Kelsea’s captain told her the story of how he’d delivered her to her now-dead foster parents, and that her foster-mother had sacrificed showing her love in order to help her be strong. This realization, coupled with the impossibility of resolution, brought tears to my eyes. But I’m also a sucker for such moments.

My final impressions of the book are much the same as first impressions. The storytelling was sloppy, the writing was at times painful. I am disappointed that the Crossing, a much alluded to historical event, seems to be the crossing of an actual ocean, and not space-travel. The story, for all of its shortcomings, was good and I am interested in reading the next one.

Growing

About a month ago I posted about rewriting the entirety of my novel (and subsequent sequels). During this process, I have learned things I didn’t expect about my characters and about myself. Some of it is benign, and some of it is deep, telling to the story and the characters’ motives.

When  I first wrote QFS, my focus was only Lacey. Hers was the only story worth telling in my mind. I was writing from a place of sorrow, and she, too, bore her own sorrow. As I revised, her sorrow grew smaller and smaller. In this rewrite, it is an old sorrow, that informs her character but is rarely mentioned. She’s grown up, she isn’t a child holding onto her pain and loss. She has desires, motivations, dreams, and morals. And she isn’t alone.

There is a famous piece of advice that says we should write every character as if they believe they are the main character. In earlier revisions I’d begun doing this with my antagonists – after all they must have a believable backstory. Now my market vendors have rivalries and vendettas, my sailors have worries, my teachers have prejudices and faults. And my main characters have secrets. The story is about Lacey, yes, but it isn’t just about Lacey.

If there is one piece of advice I can give you when you write, don’t stop after the first or second or third draft. Let it sit. Read psychology and self-help books while it’s sitting. Get into your characters’ heads and out of your own. Believe that your book will be something, because it already is.

Evolution

Stories evolve. Fairytales are adapted and changed to suit a new audience. Urban legends grow into horror stories. This changing is a natural occurrence – not unlike aging. As writers we know that stories evolve drastically in their early lives as we fight to make them fit for another person to read. Even once we thought the story had reached it’s final stage, there may be a surprise evolution waiting in the wings.

I took QFS down to it’s bones over the summer and have been building it back up ever since. There have been many adjustments, largest of which is who the antagonist is. Other changes include relationships between characters, personalities, secrets and revelations, motives, and character names. I’ve also changed the title. The Cartographer’s Quest is more grown up and less black and white than it’s earlier versions.

In addition to these changes, I’ve been working on more maps for the story (after all, what cartographer wouldn’t include maps in their tale?).  Below are a couple examples of what I’ve been working on.

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Happy Sunday, friends!

Well, I didn’t quite hit my goal of a page a day this week, but I did write more than I have in months! It feels good knowing that I can pick back up with just a little will-power.

Other than writing, I have been reading more again. I’m about 3/4 done with “Within the Sanctuary of Wings” by Marie Brennan. Just like her previous books in this serious, I have been totally captivated. I will have a  full review when I finish the book.

In the meantime, I’m trying to come up with some good blog posts for here. I was thinking about doing a full story, chapter by chapter, but I also want to get back to some of my early style posts, talking about elements of fantasy or inspiration and things like that. I would like to know what you think – are there specific things that you think would be beneficial or are there things you have questions about? Let me know and I will work on answering your questions!

Adventure well,

Emily

Okay, so I’m still getting back in the swing of writing after my very long slump. Part of that is blogging every week, even if I have little to nothing to say. At least right now it is little, rather than nothing.

This past week I have started thinking more in depth with where I am going when I finish writing book 3 of my Salvation trilogy. Not to say I’m anywhere close to being done with the trilogy (still have tons of edits and revisions on book two, and still polishing book one, let alone finishing book 3!). I’ve decided who the major players are, what perspectives I’m writing from, and what has transpired to lead to the events that take place in the next story. I’ve also decided that it begins with a daughter burying her mother. Maybe not the most creative in terms of cliches, but I hope to make it unique, all the same.

In the meantime, I’ve written about a page more of the third book in the Salvation trilogy – which is more than I’ve written for probably four or five months now. The title of the third book is Heart of the World, in case I haven’t mentioned that yet.

This week I have some time off from work, and my goal is to write at least a page a day. Not a lot, I know, but I think it’s important to keep goals attainable and right now I know  that a page a day is an attainable goal, but anything more than that would be overwhelming for me. That’s just how it goes when coming back from a slump.

How do you get yourself back into the swing of things after a slump?

Adventure well,

Emily

Coming Back to Life

There is a lovely blogger at fibijeeves who has inspired me. We had a brief conversation about getting out of writer’s block, and so I am trying to do more writing again. I’ve been busy working at my other blog, Simply Stitched, and of course busy with the big wide world and everything life throws at a person.

But I am coming back. I want to write here, I want to breathe the written word again, I want to live like I used to live: immersed in stories and language and adventure. So here I am, ready to get back out there, ready to reinvest in myself, ready to go questing once again.

Adventure Well,

Emily

Tips for getting unstuck

I’ve stalled again. My notebooks full of my third book sit lifelessly on my desk or, in the vague hope that I will spill some ink on the page, in my purse as I flit to and fro through my life. I wrote the first, minor climax and resolved one of the plot lines that has been constant from the first book. It was necessary for the story, as the final climax has a different beast – though to be honest I’m playing with the idea of completely changing the order of the climaxes. But I’m in the middle, and the middle is always the hardest part.

Why is the middle so tough? For me, it’s because I’m goal-oriented. I see what the beginning is, I know what the ending is, but I don’t know how to get there. (It is an unfortunate flaw that I am the same way in my daily life. Talk about frustrating.) Figuring out the important parts of the journey is my next step, but even when I have them (laid out in outline form, no less) I struggle to connect the dots. Considering the number of posts and articles about why it is hard to write the middle – I know I’m not alone.

Rather than rehash why it is so hard, I want to give some tips that help me get through it.

1.Read.

2.Do something else, anything else, for 10-20 minutes, then come back to writing and power through the sticky spots.

3.Get some sleep. I get cranky and cry a lot if I get frustrated/stuck and need sleep. I’ve learned this, and know that if I feel like I am about to cry from frustration, I need to take a nap (or just go to bed for the night).

4.Ask for help. Often talking to my writer friends helps me feel motivated to get through the tough spots. Even more, they may have insight on why your story is stuck – something may not be working and you might not be noticing it.

5.Take a bath. Seriously, it can be like a mini sensory-deprivation tank and helps get the mind spinning.

6.Spend time NOT thinking. watch a movie. Play a video game. Sometimes your brain needs a rest.

7.Do what is right for you. If these tips don’t help, do something that you find relaxing.

8.Most of all, don’t give up. Sometimes it’s hard. We all have writing cycles – I’ve blogged about that here before. If you know what your writing cycle is – don’t try to force it to be something else and know that yes, you’re still a writer even if you aren’t currently writing. You need that recharge time so give it to yourself.

Good luck with your middle! (And I’ll do my best to follow my own advice, too!)

Take care,

Emily

Editor for Hire

As you know, I am a writer. You may not know that I also edit work (and not just my own). I have edited both fiction and non-fiction for friends and family members. I am now opening that opportunity up to you, my blogging buddies!

Proofreading consists of checking for typos and formatting issues. (That’s errors such as misspellings, lonely words, and accuracy with page numbers and table of contents.) Proofreading is most helpful for a fully finished draft that has gone through many revisions and is about to be sent in for consideration (or in the case of articles and papers, turned in). Proofreading should be your last step.

Copy editing is for checking grammar, syntax, capitalization and punctuation, missed words, repeated words, using the best word for the job, tenses, and other language errors. This step is for when you have your story completed and are ready to get your hands dirty with polishing it.

Content editing is the most involved step, and the first one you should take with an editor. This is when we look at what parts of your story (article, paper, blog post, etc.) need to be revised and rewritten, if the plot is well-developed, if there are discrepancies to be fixed, if your characters believable, and if your story flows well.

Packages:

Proofreading $10.00/ 10,000 words

Copy editing $11.00/ 10,000 words

Content editing $12.00/ 10,000 words

Proofreading and copy editing $19.00/ 10,000 words

Proofreading and content editing $20.00/ 10,000 words

Copy editing and content editing $21.00/ 10,000 words

Proofreading, copy editing, and content editing $30.00/ 10,000 words

Basic Guidelines:

If you are hiring for proofreading, I expect a polished and complete piece of writing. I will work with up to 100,000 words at this point.

I will edit first 1,500 words for free. You can look to see if you like the style and way I edit, and we can continue from there at the above rates. Email me at emilyramos402@gmail.com

 

 

 

Serial Saturday – Onaemi 7

In my thoughts, I conjured that city, where there was a special place for me. I imagined a city of pink stone like the one’s Auntie had taken me too when she was trying to find my home. Pink stone and dirt streets that were wreathed in bright green summer garlands. There would be other Whisper children, playing and exploring and learning and so eager to welcome me into their home. My former guardians had said that I might go to the Citadel, but I wondered now if that was such a good idea. After all, they’d made it sound as if I had to pass tests to be allowed there, but Soliri was promising me a special place of my own. That he’d killed them and taken me I’d not forgotten, but perhaps they had been the evil ones.

We passed three nights in that small town. I pretended, all that time, that I was his daughter, and mute. It was easier for me to listen, and to daydream, if I did not have to speak to anyone. Not that I had much chance. Soliri rented out a private room and brought all my meals there. I missed Flier’s company, but I knew she was happy and well in the stables. I was true to my word and did not try to run away or tell anyone that Soliri had taken me away from someone else, not so much because of the threat of death hanging over me than because I’d been with him for weeks, and thought perhaps he might become something similar to what Auntie had been to me.

Even as I thought such thoughts I knew they would not be. He was taking me to a special place.

He was away much of the time we were in the town. He would leave and bring back sacks of provisions. From this I inferred that we would not stop in another town before we reached the coast. I was at once disappointed and relieved, for it meant we would travel more safely, but I enjoyed the luxury of the inn. I wondered, distantly, why I could hear the whispers of the dead wood that made up the place. I heard trees often, but wood was killed trees. Perhaps it was only that I was a Whisper, and the planks and panels were like ghosts that were not magicked into silence.

When at last we left, it was with laden saddlebags. Flier was not pleased to go back out into the snow, but she greeted me with affection nonetheless. Soliri was taciturn and Flier did not try to greet him as he saddled her. The three of us rode out onto the snowy road, but quickly turned from the worn path to break our own ground through frozen over snow. South and west we went. The little town disappeared over a rise. We were on our way.

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