Writer In Motion: First Draft!

Hopefully you’ve been following along with the Writer In Motion awesomeness! Check out the prompt and my process, such as it is!

And now, the unveiling: This is where my brain took me. And I ran with it.

 

You held my hand, gripping with such strength I feared my fingers might break. But I returned the grip as the howls rose around us. The Drop Site was in front of us, but between it and the bare scraggly brush we crouched in for meager cover, nothing. Just barren land. And the Drop Site? Concealed by the rusting remains of a small ship, listing to starboard on a sandbank. Nothing the monsters around us could understand.

The howls were getting closer. You lunged for the derelict, breaking cover. I had no choice but to follow you, and we ran out onto the packed sand that crumbled beneath our feet as if conspiring with the monsters to slow us down.

You stumbled before me, and I tucked my arm under your elbow to haul you upright. Your hooves pattered out a staccato beat, emphasized by the fear I could smell wafting from you. The fear the monsters could smell too, I bet.

And here they came.

They roared out from the brush and you gave a strangled squeal. It seemed to call them on, to drive them ever faster. They howled again, beasts with huge splayed feet that grabbed the sand we struggled on, that threw them ever forward, ever closer to us.

“Run!” you shouted, and I ran. I stopped looking behind me, tried to cut out the sight of the flapping hides, swinging limbs, and eyes gleaming in the dark. They could see better than we could, we’d discovered.

We galloped across the sands and through the tide reaching up to lap at our hooves, as if the water too conspired to drag us down. Did the monsters compel all of nature to do their bidding, to help them at their task? The idea sent a shiver down my spine. It couldn’t be. Such a thing would be magic, and everyone knew magic was for children. Just silly superstitions, is all.

You flung yourself into the derelict, and I leaped in behind you. No door to slam in the monsters’ faces, so I scrambled about, looking for anything to barricade the doorway. You head to the front of the cabin, searching for the supplies the Wolves had sent us. It seemed a cruelty now, the way the Wolves had set up the Matter Teleportation Device. We called it the Matt-Porter, or just Matt for short. Now, it felt like a mat in the fur, tangling and irritating, growing too something that could injure.

This was supposed to be an easy mission. Drop down, catalogue the natives, and Matt up. No one was supposed to get hurt. I grabbed a piece of plywood and slammed it into the doorway. It was barely big enough—any bend, and it would give way. I propped it up with my body, praying that it’ll be enough.

That’s how desperate I was, you see. I knew there was nothing in the starry expanse to pray to, but somehow I prayed anyway. I don’t even know who I prayed too—the stars? The universe? Science and reason themselves? I didn’t care that it made no sense.

You had found the matches, fumbling with them. Too long, it was all taking too long! Curse the Wolves and their set up! Couldn’t they have used a button, or any other type of sensor? But Wolves will be Wolves.

And yes, you see, I cursed. I’m sorry about that but you see, I wasn’t in my right mind.

Finally you dropped the match to the kindling, just as a weight slammed against my back and I screamed. I scrambled with my hooves on the slick metal flooring, but there was no good footing. Maybe if I had massive flat feet like the monsters did.

The kindling lit, fortunately for us, but I couldn’t leave the barricade. I couldn’t let go, or the monsters would get in at us. They’d get in at you.

You hesitated, looking at me, while the fire flared brighter. Another weight bounced against my back, and the howls rose up all around the derelict. Hairy arms with nimble fingers reached in at use from the portholes. Fortunately the metal wasn’t rusted all the way through.

“Drop the meat on! Waft the smoke toward the sensors!” Hopefully the Wolves set the sensors to maximum sensitivity! They probably had a laugh as they set up the Matt, the meat-lovers they were. Make the vegetarians cook slabs of meat if they want the Matt to pick them up. Drop them down with sensors that will detect the smell of cooking meat and tie the Matt into them automatically. And of course, the most devious of all, don’t let the Dropped team know until they’re already down—send them with written instructions so they can’t object.

Well, when we got back up, I’d give them an earful.

Another weight slammed against my back and arms scrabbled around as I desperately pushed the plywood closed again. Fingers pinched my hide and I squealed again.

Maybe you’d give them an earful.

The smell of cooking meat filled the cabin, turning my stomach. The monsters smelled it too, apparently. They stopped trying to beat their way in, giving me a moment of wonderful, blissful relief, though we could hear their noses working.

I leaped from the plywood, too afraid that it would bend too much and send me crashing outside with the monsters. I leaped to you, and you put your arms around me, and the monsters came roaring in.

I shut my eyes.

“Have fun?”

I opened my eyes. One of the Wolves was standing before us, his muzzle wrinkled in a broad smile.

“That wasn’t funny! We were almost eaten alive by monsters!”

“What? They’re not monsters! They’re just primitives,” the Wolf said. “It would have taken them some time to do any damage to you anyway.”

Shaking, I check my arm, where the monster had grabbed me. If the monster had been a Wolf, I would have had a great slice in my arm. Instead, I had only shallow scratches.

“What did you learn about these… what did the Whales call them?” the Wolf said.

“Homo Sapiens.”

“Ah yes. Primitive?”

“Quite primitive. But good with their eyes, and fast,” I said.

“Well, not so much fast as they just don’t stop. Do they never need rest?” you said, quivering like a leaf.

“Well, look at this! They may be primitive, but they’re intelligent. We left a sensor down below—have a look.”

We turned to the screen, leaning past the Wolf for a good look. And that’s when we discovered that we had accidentally taught the Homo Sapiens to cook their meat.

The Wolf laughed. “Not too bad, Cows. Not too bad. We’ll set a course for our home planet now, no worries. You deserve your rest.”

 

I already have plans for this. I experimented with almost 2nd person, and morphed into 1st. I think I want to see if I can stick the landing on 2nd, just for fun. But that only works if the narrator is telling the story to someone who’s gone or lost their memory or something. And the ending sucks. And I want more tension. And all of that can be fixed by committing to 2nd person and letting something tragic occur. Embrace it.

In the editing phase.

 

 

Check out the other Writer In Motion participants!

– K. J. Harrowick http://blog.halon-chronicles.com & http://kjharrowick.wordpress.com

– Jen Karner http://www.SyllablesandSass.com

– H.M. Braverman http://hmbraverman.com

– J.M. Jinks www.authorjmjinks.com

– Melissa Bergum (will be posting via KJ’s site)

– Thuy Nguyen http://www.tmnstories.com

– Kristen Howe https://kristenswritingendeavors.wordpress.com/

– Kathryn Hewitt https://spinningmyyarns.wordpress.com/

– Sean Willson https://www.seanwillson.com/blog/

– Paulette Wiles http://www.paulettewiles.com

– Talynn Lynn inkinthebook.blogspot.com

– Ellen Mulholland www.ellenmulholland.com

– Steph Whitaker stephwhitaker80.wixsite.com/swhitakerwrites/

– Sheri MacIntyre https://sherimacintyre.wordpress.com

– Jessica Lewis https://jessicalewis2227.wixsite.com/authorjessicalewis/writer-in-motion

– Susan Burdorf https://writingnotes.home.blog

– Dawn Currie https://dawncurrie.wordpress.com

– Megan Van Dyke http://www.meganrvandyke.com

– Ari Augustine https://bookishvalhalla.com

– Fariha Khayyam http://www.farihakhayyam.com

– M. Dalto https://authormdalto.wordpress.com/blog/

– Sheryl Stein http://www.wrekehavoc.com

– Belinda Grant https://belindagrantwrites.wordpress.com

– Coffee Quills https://coffeequills.com

The amazing editors:

Jeni Chappelle https://www.jenichappelleeditorial.com

Carly Hayward https://booklighteditorial.com

Maria Tureaud https://twitter.com/Maria_Tureaud

Justine Manzano https://www.craftquest.org/

 

Writer In Motion: My process

So I looked at the prompt yesterday and I mentioned I had my subconscious thinking on it. I could feel the wheels spinning, but I had no clue what was going to come out. I thought about using a character I already have, maybe combining a storyline with the setting of the prompt. Or maybe I’d go abstract and use the feel, or a message. Maybe the old and rusty, underneath the bright clear sky? I could do something about sea, or abandonment, or ghosts, maybe zombies. Zombie pirates? Sea ghosts? Who knows! I’d made an earlier quip yesterday “My 5 year old has decided today is a great day to be a cannibal”. That would make a great opening sentence, right? Maybe I could tie it in with the ship.

Then I went to sleep. And I woke up with a story. No zombies, no ghosts. Space Cows.

Yeah, I have no idea either!

Oh yeah, and because that’s not crazy enough, let’s write it in 2nd person past tense, because that makes sense.

I’ve never written in 2nd person past tense. I dislike 1st person, and I stick to 3rd person past, either limited or omniscient as a rule.

As you can see, I have no idea what I’m doing when I write. Things just come out. I wrote my draft of 1140 words (yeah, with a cap of 500, I know, I know) in about 30 minutes. I use the term word puke, and it’s accurate.

During the 30 minutes, 2nd person past switched to 1st person past, and then I kept finding myself drifting to 1st person present and correcting my verbiage back to past tense. I may not have caught them all, fair warning. This is an unedited first draft. I haven’t even read over it again yet.

Oh yes, and I have no names. Not even in my head. This thing is weird. Normally, if I get stuck on a name I’ll leave a marker (AAName) and move on, but there’s not even any of that in this thing.

I think back on what I wrote, and I’m just like… where did this come from? What does this say about the mind of the author who wrote it? Perhaps that I’m raging mad? 😂

I wish I had something more helpful to write about my process, but this is really it. I plant myself in a chair or in front of my writing desk (which is a wooden crate on top of the table with a cloth over top, and my laptop sitting on the cloth) and I just… write. I don’t know what’s going to come out, I don’t know what’s going to happen next except for possibly some few plot points. In this case, I sat down intending to write in 2nd person past and a story about a Space Cow being chased by monsters that turn out to be cave people. There was a notion of having to cook meat to get up to the spaceship (cuz Space Cow) and the humans learning to cook from that.

Then, while writing, things evolved and I went with the flow. Would the narrator survive? Maybe not! What details happened? Who knows? I saw the 500 mark approaching and I zoomed right past without waving goodbye because there was no time for pleasantries. I had to keep going. It just sort of flows through me like a conduit. Yes, my writing speed was in the vicinity of 42 wpm, which is pretty normal for me. I have to try to keep up with the next bit of thing my brain has decided on for the plot.

I’m pretty happy with the story. Mostly, I’m incredibly amused. Such a blast to write!

Now the real trick: Editing.

 

 

 

Check out the other Writer In Motion participants!

– K. J. Harrowick http://blog.halon-chronicles.com & http://kjharrowick.wordpress.com

– Jen Karner http://www.SyllablesandSass.com

– H.M. Braverman http://hmbraverman.com

– J.M. Jinks www.authorjmjinks.com

– Melissa Bergum (will be posting via KJ’s site)

– Thuy Nguyen http://www.tmnstories.com

– Kristen Howe https://kristenswritingendeavors.wordpress.com/

– Kathryn Hewitt https://spinningmyyarns.wordpress.com/

– Sean Willson https://www.seanwillson.com/blog/

– Paulette Wiles http://www.paulettewiles.com

– Talynn Lynn inkinthebook.blogspot.com

– Ellen Mulholland www.ellenmulholland.com

– Steph Whitaker stephwhitaker80.wixsite.com/swhitakerwrites/

– Sheri MacIntyre https://sherimacintyre.wordpress.com

– Jessica Lewis https://jessicalewis2227.wixsite.com/authorjessicalewis/writer-in-motion

– Susan Burdorf https://writingnotes.home.blog

– Dawn Currie https://dawncurrie.wordpress.com

– Megan Van Dyke http://www.meganrvandyke.com

– Ari Augustine https://bookishvalhalla.com

– Fariha Khayyam http://www.farihakhayyam.com

– M. Dalto https://authormdalto.wordpress.com/blog/

– Sheryl Stein http://www.wrekehavoc.com

– Belinda Grant https://belindagrantwrites.wordpress.com

– Coffee Quills https://coffeequills.com

The amazing editors:

Jeni Chappelle https://www.jenichappelleeditorial.com

Carly Hayward https://booklighteditorial.com

Maria Tureaud https://twitter.com/Maria_Tureaud

Justine Manzano https://www.craftquest.org/

 

Writer In Motion!

So I decided to join a project called Writer In Motion, an idea born from Jeni Chappelle, KJ Harrowick, and others. The idea is to show the transformation process from a first draft to a final draft, because so many of us writers feel a bit bad about our own work, while we’re comparing our first drafts to published final drafts of other authors. The fact is, my first drafts suck and normally no one gets to see them period.

This will be an exception.

I cannot make promises on my final draft. If you want to see a stellar story, check out the other authors participating too!

Here’s how it’ll work:

Jeni has given us our prompt, this lovely picture by Casey Horner at Unsplash.

I will write a story inspired by this picture, coming in under 500 words! (I know, yikes!)

On June 15th, I will subject you all to the unedited first draft, right here on my blog, and I’ll tweet it using #WriterInMotion.

On June 22nd, I’ll post my first revision right here. These will be self-edits, things I have fixed using my own brain after looking it over and reading it aloud (always an important part of my revision process!)

On June 29th, I’ll post my third draft. This will incorporate revisions based on CP feedback from the previous revision (and previous week).

On July 7th, I’ll post the final draft here, after incorporating feedback from an editor.

 

This is very similar to how I normally edit, except I go through several (5+) rounds of editing with CPs and my writing groups, since I haven’t yet had the funds for an editor. Hopefully it’ll be helpful to see the revision process, and I know I am looking forward to seeing what others come up with from the prompt as well as how awesome the story gets as these excellent writers polish their drafts!

Here’s the list of participants as I’ve found it:

– K. J. Harrowick http://blog.halon-chronicles.com & http://kjharrowick.wordpress.com

– Jen Karner http://www.SyllablesandSass.com

– H.M. Braverman http://hmbraverman.com

– J.M. Jinks www.authorjmjinks.com

– Melissa Bergum (will be posting via KJ’s site)

– Thuy Nguyen http://www.tmnstories.com

– Kristen Howe https://kristenswritingendeavors.wordpress.com/

– Kathryn Hewitt https://spinningmyyarns.wordpress.com/

– Sean Willson https://www.seanwillson.com/blog/

– Paulette Wiles http://www.paulettewiles.com

– Talynn Lynn inkinthebook.blogspot.com

– Ellen Mulholland www.ellenmulholland.com

The amazing editors:

Jeni Chappelle https://www.jenichappelleeditorial.com

Carly Hayward https://booklighteditorial.com

Maria Tureaud https://twitter.com/Maria_Tureaud

Justine Manzano https://www.craftquest.org/

The second wave (some of us jumped in late!)

– Steph Whitaker stephwhitaker80.wixsite.com/swhitakerwrites/

– Sheri MacIntyre https://sherimacintyre.wordpress.com

– Jessica Lewis https://jessicalewis2227.wixsite.com/authorjessicalewis/writer-in-motion

– Susan Burdorf https://writingnotes.home.blog

– Dawn Currie https://dawncurrie.wordpress.com

– Megan Van Dyke http://www.meganrvandyke.com

– Ari Augustine https://bookishvalhalla.com

– Fariha Khayyam http://www.farihakhayyam.com

– M. Dalto https://authormdalto.wordpress.com/blog/

– Sheryl Stein http://www.wrekehavoc.com

– Belinda Grant https://belindagrantwrites.wordpress.com

– Coffee Quills https://coffeequills.com

 

Oh, and what am I doing this week before the first draft? I’m gonna stare at this picture in between Windward edits and let my subconscious do its thing. I can already feel the wheels turning, and I love the evocative feel of this prompt! It’s lovely. This means I also have to avoid looking at these other blogs, because at this stage in my creative process I can’t let someone else’s ideas in, or they’ll stomp my idea-buds to bits without ever intending to do so. This is why I’ll never be able to co-write.

But you! You can go look. So browse, and have fun!

Telling vs Showing

So there’s tons of blog posts and articles and other information out there on how to “show not tell”, which is one of the main pieces of advice new writers hear and themselves spout. I’m not going to talk about how to do that- I want to talk for a moment about when to show, not tell.

Yes. Sometimes, you want to tell.

Why? Great question, because it informs When and that helps you use this tool appropriately. When you show what’s going on, you decrease distance, increase your reader’s buy-in, and thereby increase tension, all through immersion. When you tell, you increase distance and lose tension. So you need to be aware of that corresponding decrease in tension when you have a section of telling- you’ll have to work to regain that tension afterward. Also, keep in mind a book that is constantly super deep and super showy and super tense and involved can be wearying for some readers. Backing off gives a moment of rest to then let them be drawn back into your net recharged and ready to re-engage.

I put it simply. Show when the moment is important and you need your reader engaged in your character’s struggle. This is going to be most moments. You can tell when you’re just moving the story along from point to point in time or space. This will be the vast minority of times.

So for instance, this is a passage from Windward:

“They gathered, the bonded riding on their dragons, winding single file down the rocky slope. The light mist retreated from them, leaving behind droplets to adorn hair and scales as the morning sun burned the last of it away with gentle heat. Claws scraped on the rocky soil, and the sweeping rasp of scaled tails as they made their way down the path filled the heavy air like a funeral song. The rocks rose, bald domes jutting up from forested crowns around which the slight breeze toyed with the scent of fresh soil, damp mosses, and sawdust.”

Do you smell it? Do you see it? Do you feel it? I sure hope so, or I failed as a writer. This is a heavy moment in the story, a moment for showing.

She and Aturadin had even taken to sleeping outside her room to protect her from further visits from Laetiran, though other bonded whispered at the unusual arrangements. And still the girl remained prickly, while the days went by and Palon couldn’t find the time to fly—not without leaving the girl unguarded. Dragonfire blast through her if she didn’t try everything to reach the girl.

Now here, the fact that they’re spending their nights sleeping outside the room is important, but actually showing it would be boring, since nothing happens. But the fact that it’s happening is the important part. The same goes for Palon’s increasing frustration- but here we start to slip back toward showing, until the last line is thoroughly in Palon’s head again, giving the reader her thoughts on the situation: Dragonfire blast through her.

Other great times to tell are if you have a traveling moment, where you’re just getting characters from A to B. “The road to Arbah had been long and dusty, and he had been certain the sun would roast them long before they saw the city gates.” We’re not showing the journey because the journey doesn’t matter. The fact it happened does, because we need to bring the reader along with us. Same with jumping forward in time. If nothing happens for 3 weeks or even 3 days, please don’t show the reader! I’ve read passages like that and it’s just plain boring. If your character is bored and you’re showing that boredom, your reader will be bored.

The times when you tell should be short and sweet. You want to keep as much of your character’s voice as you possibly can in the telling, too. Then switch back to showing the moment you can, and immediately immerse the reader back in the sights, sounds, feels, and emotions of the goings on around your character.

Happy writing!

 

 

Oh, synopses, you wonderful, awful things…

So I just finished powering through another round of edits for Windward to prepare it for RevPit, despite feeling like my brain was leaking out my ears. Yesterday afternoon saw me chugging water and passing out on the couch from busting my butt to beat the deadline (last weekend saw me entering Writers of the Future, so it’s been… a thing).

Anyway, now that I can think and type and actually use words again I wanted to talk about something that I hate. I hate it worse than query writing guys. The dreaded synopsis.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend I’m good at writing synopses, because I really suck at them. But I write them anyway. Why? They are such a valuable tool to check and make sure your story didn’t go off track (especially if you are a discovery writer like me. My stories are always going “track? What track? What’s down this hiiillllllll?!”) Here’s the breakdown.

Synopses can show you plotholes. When you’re writing, it can make total sense that Character A goes off with Character B, but then when you’re reducing that chapter to two sentences for your synopsis and you can’t think of a single good reason for that event… Time to edit! Similarly, because the previous chapter was also two sentences, you can look back and realize that the real answer was there all along! (Why did they fix Thor’s Hammer in Stargate if they weren’t going to use it to de-Goa’uld-ify Share’ when she was pregnant like three episodes later?)

Synopses show you slow sections. If you find you have nothing to write about what happened for an entire chapter… that could be a problem. It’s time then to take another look and see if you can spice things up. Increase the tension, add in a fight, throw in some drama, whatever. Just make sure your random-giant-bashing-through-a-mountain then also still makes sense after the fact.

Writing your synopsis can help you pin down your themes. Then, you can go back through in editing and polish those themes till they shine, creating a cohesive story instead of a series of semi-related events. This is something I really struggled with, and still do some.

Synopses aren’t just for agents and editors. They aren’t something to avoid at all costs. Instead, they are a tool you can use even previous to submitting to agents and editors, to really clean up your story.

 

Breaking Rules

I wrote this February 15, 2017 but I’m leaving it up, and then going to talk about what I’ve learned in the last two years.

So getting traditionally published is notoriously difficult. It seems only a fool would stack those odds even more against themselves. It also seems I am one of those fools.

I’m a big believer in following your passions, especially when they are hobbies. I’m not going to be able to write well if I’m trying to force myself to write something I don’t care about. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), this project breaks a lot of traditional rules.

First, I have multiple protagonists, which means multiple people to make known to the reader and forge a connection between. Second, those protagonists all know each other extremely well, having grown up together, so it’s not like they’re constantly learning new things about each other than I can use as a window for the reader. Third, they’ve all lived in the culture we begin in all their lives, so again, no good window (though having Eian helps just a bit for that, because children force adults to explain things they take for granted). This culture is significantly different from Western civilization in a number of important ways, but the trick is to convey that without boring or preaching at the reader. Fourth, the protagonists are not new to their powers. Oh, and I’ve never been before published under any name, and have a series here to pitch. Five and Six.

This is not a coming of age story. This is not a traditional “go kill the dragon and return home triumphantly” story, either.

 

So, I think it’s important to know how your story stands out. I love all the ways Between Starfalls sets itself apart from many other fantasy novels. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing out there like it. But focusing too much on the differences, it can be hard to find the target audience. Also, to be perfectly honest, I was a little bitter.

I’m past that now, I think. I’ve decided self-publishing is the best thing for me, for this series, and so I’m actually grateful my book didn’t get picked up. One of the main reasons I wanted to do traditional publishing was to avoid the marketing. I didn’t realize then that traditional published authors still have to do a lot of their own marketing (unless they’re a big name). Additionally, as I’ve grown and improved, so has my manuscript. It is so much better now than it was then, it’s really no wonder it wasn’t picked up.

So yes, differences matter. Finding a new lens to look in on a story can be difficult. But don’t be bitter, and find the similarities, too. Good luck!

Querying

So, the age old question of wannabe authors (of which I am one, of course, so take this post with a hefty grain of salt): When is my manuscript ready to send to agents?

Here’s what I’ve learned (a reminder about that grain of salt, since I’m sure I’ll continue learning). Growing your writing skills is essential and an ongoing process. I’ve found my beta readers to be essential to bettering my manuscript, but for me they weren’t enough, by themselves. Reading quality books in the same genre was also essential. The same issues in style and structure that I’ve faced in my writing, other authors have also faced, and reading their published works lets me glean a little of how they solved those issues. I have found that reading at the same level gave better results: reading Middle Grade books is entertaining, but didn’t grow my skills as much as reading Adult books.

I have learned that just because a book is published doesn’t mean I can learn from it. I used to be the kind of person that finished every book I started, but I no longer have time for that. If I find too many plot holes and inconsistencies, I’m done. I need to read books with storytelling far beyond my own current ability (and sometimes more than once, because usually I can’t pay enough attention to structure, etc on the first read on account of the overwhelming amount of awesome). However, I’ve found that I don’t need to stick too tightly to my own chosen genre. While I write epic fantasy, I’ve also found that urban fantasy can give me some good tips and tricks on how to show the world to the reader.

What I’ve noticed is that I go through stages. I write, and I think it’s good, and then I send it away or let it sit and read, and then when I look at it again, I’m like, “Wait, I thought this was good?” So I button it up again and feel pretty proud of myself, and the cycle repeats. But through this, my skill grows, and my first drafts of other projects are significantly better than the first draft of the previous project, and I can see a lot of errors or problems that I didn’t see before. All of this is good.

I’ve read from agents that the right time to send your manuscript is when you can think of nothing else to do to it. This is what I’ve done, and will continue doing, even though it sucks. I know that my writing skill will continue to improve, and I worry that I’m burning bridges by sending off a work that in a few years I will be disgusted by the pride I felt in it. But if I wait to be at the pinnacle of skill, I will always be waiting, and what then is the point of this journey? So I send my manuscript to a few agents at a time, revising in between until there’s nothing else I can think to do to it, and knowing that I’m getting better, even if my journey is slower than it could potentially be. I’m not in a hurry. I can bide my time.

If you’re on this journey with me, good luck, and I hope this post helps.