A Writing Journey

Posts tagged ‘novel’

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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Self-Editing

Your first draft is done, and you may want to start sending it out or letting people read it straight away. You shouldn’t. Let it sit, let it rest, and then after a few weeks (or months, or whatever), come back to the desk and look at it afresh. You will see bits and pieces that don’t fit, rocks among your gems, and you will get to work editing.*

So how does one go about self-editing? It’s a tricky business, I’ll tell you that. It’s tricky because you know what you’ve written, and you may either be sentimentally attached to certain parts of the story that need to be seriously changed (or deleted altogether) or you may skim over your writing and miss things that need to be fixed. If you are like me, you may intentionally gloss over something that you know is wrong, but you aren’t sure how to fix it yet.

Thus the first step in self-editing is to READ CAREFULLY. In fact, read out loud, slowly. When you do this, you will catch things that you would likely not catch reading silently (think awkward word pairings, misspelled words, horrifyingly long sentences). Read once through without changing anything.** Doing this will give you a good sense of your story, how it flows (or doesn’t) and what places need work. Once you’ve read through, go back to the beginning and get started editing with the following tips:

1.Get rid of your “catch phrases”

We all have certain words or phrases that we tend to use more frequently than others. You’ll notice them as you read, and you will remember them. A few times through the book is okay, because your reader may or may not remember that the phrase you used on page 238 is the same as on page 24. HOWEVER I will advise to use particularly “pretty” phrases or words (think quiescence) only once. A word that your reader has to look up or a phrase that they will linger on WILL be remembered. Go ahead and rework these phrases, choose different words, and go on from there. You may have to do this several times.

2. Cut “very”

Do you remember the scene from The Dead Poet’s Society where Mr. Keating talks about “very”? He warns the boys to pick stronger words. And now I’m warning you. If you are using “very” to beef up your verbs or adverbs, you need to work harder. And I know it’s tough. Sometimes you just can’t think of the perfect word. That’s why we edit more than once, and why when we are writing the first draft, we don’t worry so much about “verys.” But to make your novel as strong as it an be, pick “crucial” instead of “very important.”

3.Check your POV

No matter if you are writing in first or third, point of view is crucial to your story. (See what I did there? Huh, huh?) First of all, you should pick a point of view and stick with it. If you pick to follow two characters, alternating between them, don’t all of a sudden drop one (unless they die – which in that case I hope it’s a mystery and we know something the protagonist doesn’t!) or add a third. I’ll give you an example. If you’ve been a follower here for a long time, you know that I LOVE Robin Hobb. This is probably the only complaint I will ever have against her. In one of her recent novels, she changed perspectives and started following a different character – without any indication that this is what she was doing. It was confusing and, to be honest, it took me a couple pages to understand. I did understand, but for those few moments I was not immersed in the story – and our goal as writers is to keep the reader immersed.

When you are writing a single character, try to make sure that every word you write reflects that character. If your own biases or stylistic word choices slip in, cut them. Be careful about consistency. Your novel will shine when you are consistent.

4.Grammar, typos, and formatting

The general stuff, right? Make sure you use correct grammar (or stylistically consistent grammar). Correct misspellings and repeat words. Make sure that your formatting is consistent throughout the manuscript. It’s tedious stuff, but important. Publishers and agents expect a level of expertise when it comes to writing.

I hope these tips will help you as you begin self-editing, and if you have more, please feel free to share them in the comments below!

Take care,

Emily

*You may also need to rewrite huge swaths of your story. This is fine. This is expected. This is probably needed.

**Mark places that you feel need work, if you must. But try your best to refrain from changing things! You want to come into the work with “fresh” eyes – as a reader not a writer. It will help in the long-run, I promise.

Packet Ready

So I posted a while back that the manuscript of QFS was ready. Since then I have been working on the synopsis, story blurb, and cover letter required for my first submission. Tonight I’ve got it all printed out and stowed away – all that’s left is to send it. That will probably happen on Saturday, as I’ve got work most of the day tomorrow. I was really anxious about it, but now I’ve come to a calm place. Whether they take it or not, I’ve accomplished something, you know?

As far as other writing goes, I haven’t done much. I’ve been in a state of pretty constant chaos the last couple of months (moving, finding work, other personal stressors) and so have been very much away from writing. I think I’ll be getting back to it soon though – I feel the need to write starting to eat away at my insides.

The sequel to QFS – working title Scourge of the Daiyen – is about 3/4 of the way through the first draft. I remember now why I hate first drafts – they feel clunky and wrong and I forget to include important things. But that’s what rewriting is for.

I have some other ideas stewing as well: a couple more high fantasy, a psychological fantasy sort of deal (really don’t know how else to put it concisely), and a non-fiction.

Right now I’m trying to get myself back into writing daily, which has been tough with the amount of clutter around. Plus I fell down the stairs the other day so my tailbone is not liking to sit for long stretches of time. UGH.

Anyway, I’ll keep you updated about when I get my packet sent and how the writing is going. Thanks for hanging in there even through my hiatuses!

Being Inspired

Yesterday, I had a conversation about reading and writing (among other things). One thing that stuck out to me was the need for motivation (though I like the term inspiration better – motivation makes me think of working out and dieting). Whether a person is working on a college paper, a painting, some sort of building project, or writing, being motivated/inspired is key.

I’ve had a problem with this inspiration/motivation lately. I’ve had great ideas for what I want to write about, how I want to rework QFS so that I’m satisfied with it (though let’s face it – having a completed manuscript is pretty satisfying on its own), but whenever I have the time and desire to work, I get stuck. Part of that is because it isn’t new and exciting anymore – but that isn’t all. If it were, my other new fragments of stories would be holding my attention. More than anything else, I have been stuck because I’ve not been talking to people about it.*

I’ve been working full-time with people who don’t do much reading or writing (as far as I am aware) and the friends I used to talk to are busy (not to mention far away after  the end of college). I’ve been busy trying to get my life in order, to learn new things (gosh, I miss school!), and to get involved in the community. That doesn’t leave much inspiration for writing.

So here is my advice to you, if you are stuck. Talk to someone about it. Not online, (preferably) not by texting or any sort of electronic communication.** Talk to someone, in person, about writing. You don’t have to talk about your specific project, just talk about writing and you’ll be itching to dive back in, to feel the flow of words on your skin.

Try it.*** Trust me, you will thank me! (And if you don’t, well, sorry! What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for all.)

*Well, that and my apartment is NOT conducive to writing.

**Of course, electronic communication is better than no communication. But in my experience it doesn’t have the same effect.

***Another thing to try is getting out of your normal writing space. Sometimes, for me, if I’m stuck for too long and I keep trying to write in the same place, it sets me up for failure. Go to a library, a coffee shop, or even a restaurant.

Take care!

Chapter One Excerpt

Because I have a day off and am feeling overly excited about working on this latest rewrite of Quest for Salvation, I have decided to share an excerpt! I hope you enjoy it!

I shrieked as the ground beneath my feet gave way. Tomis shouted in panic. His voice was vague beyond the sound of crumbling earth. I expected the falling to go on forever, so I lay stunned when I hit bottom.

“Lacey!” Tomis cried, peering down through the hole.

It took me a moment to catch my breath. “I’m alright!”

“Thank the Mother. Stay put, I’m going to get help!”

His dark silhouette disappeared and all was silent. I rolled to my knees and looked around me. As my eyes adjusted to the dimness, I was struck by the austerity of the chamber. The ceiling had failed in several places, caving in and leaving dirt and snow scattered about the floor. Winter sunlight filled the holes and gave enough illumination to make out most of the chamber. It was long, but not very wide or tall. Plain stone columns lined the walls, some of them cracked or otherwise damaged. One had completely toppled over, and had smashed through a wall. There was an apse at one end of the chamber, and I had fallen close to it. What was at the other end I could not see and I didn’t want to venture that far from the hole to find out.

The apse, however, drew me with irrational curiosity. It was raised from the rest of the chamber by two shallow steps and an altar stood there, the only furnishing in the entire chamber. Upon the altar was something, hidden beneath a tattered cloth. I grasped it, but it disintegrated to dust in my hand. Taking care not to damage the artifact underneath, I brushed the dust away and revealed an ancient tome.

The Book was like a shadow given form, drinking in light and sharing none of it back. It whispered to me, indistinct as voices in the night. I knew that I should not touch it, that Rayal would be cross with me if I did, but I could not stop myself from reaching out. At my touch the Book burst to life, glowing bright Crystal-blue and illuminating not only the apse, but the vastness of the chamber. I recoiled in shock and stumbled back, down both steps.

“Stupid, Lacey!” I scolded myself.

The glow dimmed to a less threatening intensity. Its whispers became words, or so I assumed, but I could not Understand them. With marked resilience, I approached the altar for a second time. Again I stretched out my hand and this time trailed my finger tips across it.

Lithandrine,” it seemed to whisper in greeting, though the sound was not one I heard with my ears, but my mind. I did not fear it. My whole body felt light, free. I flung the Book open.

I had not considered what might happen, what I might find, but what did happen defied any expectations one could have. Every page was glowing Crystal, thinner than any parchment-paper I’d ever seen and with a fluid quality. Upon opening the book, symbols in silver-white flew across the page, etching themselves into it. All the while it whispered, “Lithandrine,” a greeting turned into prayer.

“Lacey! Lacey, can you hear me?”

I jerked and slammed the book shut, muffling the whispers. “Master!” I called, racing back to where I’d fallen. “Master Forwith, I think I’ve found something!”

Let me know what you think and have a happy holiday, for all of us United States citizens!

Take care, fellow travelers!

The Story

First things first: this novel does not yet have a set title. I keep going back and forth between “Quest for Salvation” and “Dragon Spirit.” Each has its merits, each has its downfalls. So I’m sorry that I keep saying things like the story and my manuscript. But I figure I still have time to choose a title, so I am in no rush.

Now, maybe you are thinking since I’m spending so much time talking about the Ibvailyn Empire that is where the story takes place. Alas, it is not (at least not this one). However, it is where my main characters are from, which is why I have spent so much time developing it. The characters need a strong base to propel them out into the World. And, the Empire is my favorite of the places I have created.

What is my story about? Well, it’s about a group of travelers going on a voyage to find an artifact that will save the Empire. I am reluctant to say more because I don’t want to give spoilers (which I have a really bad habit of doing – I always accidentally ruin a plot twist when my mom is reading a book I lent her…). Suffice to say that things go wrong and the main characters get swept up in events that threaten to ruin their chances of finding the object (it would be a pretty dull story otherwise).

When I finish up my editing (four chapters to go!) I will start writing synopses like you see on the back of books and I’ll probably post a few here. In the meantime, I will post some more about the Empire, and even some about other nations/regions of the World.

Take care, fellow travelers!

A Brief History of the Ibvailyn Empire: part 1

NOTE: this is written as if by a character within the story.

The earliest days of Ibvail are shrouded in myth. The first records are the Stones of the Path, which were written by the gods themselves. They tell of a dark time in which humans were no more than beasts. They made rough dwellings out of branches, caves, and holes in the ground. They were Pathless heathens, barely human at all. The gods raised us out of that darkness and gave us the first teaching of the Path: All life is sacred.

For many years, the gods sheltered the races of Ibvail and provided for them. They built a great city with their knowledge and gathered humans to it. This city was the Holy City of Ohmlaur, and it remains holy even now. The young peoples of our nation flocked to the city for learning and worship and to look upon the gods that protected them. There was a woman who came to the city and took up work there as an acolyte to the gods. Father Simea fell in love with this woman, and together they made a child.

When the child was born, it was with the mark of the Golden Moon. Father Simea marveled at the boy and knew that it would soon be time for he and his family to retreat, that his son would lead the people into glory. As the boy grew, Father Simea taught him and told him of the good he would do and when the boy came of age, the gods departed. Where they went no one knows, for it was not recorded. The child became the first king of Ibvail.

The first command given by the King was to construct a new city from which he could rule. Through his dreams he was led to a bay in the north and there he and his loyal followers began work. They used their magics to hasten the task, but even so it took a lifetime to complete, and the children of the first workers were grown and dead before it was finished. And yet, if these stories are to be believed, the Kind was young still, blessed with the blood of a god. He christened the city Rusla, capital of his kingdom.

More will be posted on Monday.

Take care, fellow travelers!

Chapter Five Excerpt

This is an excerpt from chapter five of  Dragon Spirit. Enjoy!

When we entered Nicondre’s stateroom, the talk died. Everyone else had already arrived and taken their seats. Now they turned to examine me, different levels of surprise ranging from mild distaste to hearty welcome on all of their faces. It took all of my will not to edge behind my cousin and out of their view. What had I been thinking to come here? There wasn’t even a place for me.

It was Nicondre who recovered first and rose to retrieve another chair from the open sitting room behind him. One of the diplomats retrieved a set of dishes from the drawers beneath the table and, after a few minutes of shuffling, an extra place was set. Miah was seated across from the prince and I next to her. To my other side was a well-dressed nobleman who looked rather worse for the wear.

Dinner began with pea soup and polite small talk. Miah engaged in conversation with the woman on her other side and my nobleman neighbor was exchanging pleasantries with Kozaken, leaving me to focus entirely on the soup. I looked up once at the mention of Ohmlaur to find Prince Nicondre frowning at me. I hastily dropped my eyes again. By the time the main course arrived, everyone had gotten over the shock of my appearance and were sharing heroic tales of hunts gone awry or expeditions to foreign lands.

“I once traveled to the Athwyn Hills of Salvyn and let me tell you!” a man down the table exclaimed, setting his knife on his plate with a clang. His pronunciation of the Hills’ name made the man beside me cringe, and I realized that he must be originally from Salvyn, even though he spoke Ibvailyn well. Had Vahn taught him? The man down the table went on. “The people there are the strangest I’ve ever encountered! They paint their faces and chests to look like scales. Some of the women even shave their heads and paint their scalps! They worship myths – some half-human creature called Rikar or something and its beast mate!”

“How horrid!” a woman said in disgust.

“And that’s not even the worst of it, but I’ll spare you at the table! They’ve never even herad of the Path. The Council of Salvyn lets them govern themselves. Those people don’t even know they’re part of the Empire!”

“The Empire is doomed.” Miah’s voice rang in my ears.

The man who’d been speaking leaned against the table. “What’s that?”

“The Ibvailyn Empire is doomed. Death spawned it, death will take it back. Its people will drown and burn and drown again. And it’s your fault,” she snarled, swinging an accusing finger up at the prince. “You’re as much to blame as they are! They had no right!”

Miah sprung out of her chair and lunged across the table, scattering dishes and spilling goblets of wine. Her foot caught my chin and knocked me sideways into the Salvyni nobleman. The woman on her other side shrieked. The room was in chaos. Kozaken pulled the prince backwards, brandishing a short knife at Miah as she scrabbled across the table.

Without thinking I seized my cousin’s ankle and yanked her backwards, toppling onto the floor and dragging her down on top of me. She thrashed out of my hold and spun, grasping my tunic in shaking fists. She snarled down at me, her face contorted in a way I’d never seen before.

“Wicked woman! You try to kill me! You should’ve died already – you should’ve been drowned at birth as Trader’s used to be!”

In horror I squirmed out of her grip, aided the nobleman striking her from behind. She whirled on him, hissing.

“Miah!” I shouted. “Stop this!”

She paused and twisted around to look over her shoulder at me. “Miah. I am Miah.”

“Yes,” I said, levering myself to my feet.

She rose out of her crouch. Around her the dinner party withdrew. She swayed. “Lacey?”

It took all my training on the Path to step forward and steady her. She looked at me from beneath lowered lashes, an animal smile parting her lips.

“You’re going to die,” she whispered.

My grip tightened on her and, with strength I did not know I had, I hauled her from the room. She struggled against me but I did not let go until we reached our cabin. I pushed her inside and then leaned in to catch the door. The look on her face stilled me.

“I am going to kill you.”

I slammed the door shut.

Take care, fellow travelers!

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