writing the second draft

I had a request to share how I went about writing the second draft of my novel. As a disclaimer, this is just how I did it; I’m certain that others try different methods that work well for them.

My first draft was written during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month— I highly recommend participating) last November, 50,000 words in one month. It took another week after November to finally finish it, which brought it up to approximately 52,000 words. As expected of a NaNo novel, it had several major problems.

First, there was the pacing. I was writing furiously for four weeks to produce volume, not good craftsmanship. My first test reader said that the book felt like it needed to be about twice as long, which I agreed with. The city was an undefined blur, the castle equally nondescript. My prose rambled, got distracted, changed ideas halfway through sentences.

Some of the characters were very fleshed out. Others were flat and uninteresting. My two protagonists, Rylan and Wyrren, were not very consistent. My villains showed up when inconvenient for my heroes, the characters were sidetracked at several points. Some characters I had decided would be important, but seemed to decline their part in my plot.

And speaking of plot… the entire middle of my story sagged terribly. I had the ending I wanted, the beginning I wanted, and I got to keep my tiger-fight… and yes, I could see what I was going for in that first draft. It was also an unholy mess.

Now, I’m a terrible critic. I’ve been spoiled by literature, and I’ve read too many good books to be impressed by mediocre work. This might even be the reason that I’m so hesitant to start reading something new… I have a fear of being let down by a book, as if they were a new friend that I was entrusting myself to. When I read a book or watch a movie, I ask myself things like, “If I had written this passage, would I be satisfied with it?”

I also have an excellent memory for words on paper. I can still quote poems that I memorized twelve years ago, regardless of length. So I don’t forget the things I write in a hurry.

In January, I read over a few pieces of my printed first draft, put it away, and began writing the second draft. From scratch. No references, no list of absolutely required scenes. After the second chapter, I felt that I needed to be reminded of where I was going. Instead of going back to the first draft, I wrote a detailed outline of the book and kept going.

To those of you who practice art, I compare the first draft to a thumbnail sketch. It’s enough to let you know what you’re going for. But if you draw from the sketch, you’re just going to get a bigger sketch. Best to have worked out your thoughts ahead of time and begin fresh, looking forward to other references other than old, and quick, work. I can say that my second draft is far superior to the first in every way, but still not perfect.

That’s what the third draft is for.

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villain month: in closing…

Blue Crystal Today is the last day of June… and an end to the ‘Villain Month’ project.

It’s been great being able to see everyone’s project– the last villain month showcase will probably be up tomorrow, with big thanks to everyone who participated! I really needed to go through this project, and I think the extra effort will show in my writing.

Since today is our last project day, I thought I’d post about one last antagonist of a slightly different flavor. Purposefully underdeveloped; these characters show up very rarely and don’t reveal much of themselves when they do.

The Silver Mask

The king’s secret police all have silver masks. The pieces are all handcrafted, intricate, completely unique. Some have the sculpted faces of angels, some are monsters or dead men, some are dragons or tigers, deep sea fish, insect-like beasts. The shape doesn’t matter. They’re all silver masks, and they all mean the same thing.

You will not know who they are. You will not know if someone in the room might be one. They put on their masks in private, and only when they have work to do in the name of their station.

Every time a mask appears in the book, someone dies.

villain: sorche du remerdii: ten wants

Recently, I started speaking with the gracious Joelle Anthony. Joelle is a published author who was kind enough to help me re-work my query letter.

The first thing she had me do was to write down ten things that my heroine wanted. And I thought, ‘This should be easy. I’ve been writing this character for eight or nine years now– I know Wyrren like the back of my hand.’

It took me two days to come up with a list that satisfied me enough to send back. Two days, and it was actually quite challenging. So since that was such a headache, I’ve decided, ‘let’s do it some more!’.

Sorche du Remerdii
Ten things he wants.
(Took twenty hours to finish).

  1. Luxury. His idea of luxury, the mental image it conjures, involves crystal plates, wine, music, dim light, and a large bed with entangled limbs on each side: five beautiful girls to share it with him, all with glossy hair and soft lips.
  2. Respect. Sorche doesn’t care about power, not nearly so much as his brother Kione, but he hates to be left out or seen as second-rate.
  3. His own small domain. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what he’s put in charge of. He has to work (he would grow miserable without work, and knows it). One of Sorche’s hobbies is to polish tarnished silver. Likewise, he wants to have something of his own to administer and make shine.
  4. The title ‘bastard’ Mordache changed. Mordache with skin other than the standard icy-pale have human blood and are known as Mordache bastards, despite their legitimacy. This has always irritated him, as a gentleman’s adopted son (and as a bastard Mordache).
  5. To win a strategy game against Kione. He’s tried. It hasn’t happened (yet).
  6. His previous lover’s forgiveness. Some of the things she accused him of were true, some weren’t, but he still misses her.
  7. To learn carving. The Mordache’s main form of art is sculpture, and he’s always wanted to learn how to make it himself, even if it’s just another hobby.
  8. His brother’s well-being. Sorche is convinced that Kione has no idea how to relax and have fun.
  9. A moment of glory. Sorche would love to impress his father, to be able to have a very good reason to say, ‘aren’t you glad you took me in?’.
  10. An interesting life. Perhaps not always a good or a happy life, but he would very much like his to be an eventful one.

villain: sorche du remerdii: introduction

Sorche du Remerdii
“Common sense really isn’t that common.”

Sorche du Remerdii

(Ideally read to the tune of Don’t Fear the Reaper, by Blue Oyster Cult.)

Sorche is my favorite villain in this story– I’ve touched on him before in my Kione excerpt, and have been working on him in the background since June began and I figured out what a smart-ass he was.

“Apologies, du Jadis.” One of the men in black bowed slightly. Rylan decided (for now) that he was the leader, and noted his unusually dark skin showing between his cap and scarf. “This is a rescue, despite appearances. We’d appreciate it if you would move quickly. We’re not to hurt anyone.”

Another man appeared with bandages while a third pulled out Rylan’s coat that he’d left in the other room, along with his hat, muffler, gloves, but not his swords. Rylan allowed them access to his wounded arm, and they bandaged it (sloppily– Rylan thought he could have done better, even with one hand). “Who do you serve?” Rylan asked.

“Now?” The leader glanced back to the men who were keeping the doors. No one had intruded on them yet. “Very well. On behalf of my lord, Rylan du Jadis, I commend you for your bravery, congratulate you for your victory, and condemn you for your idiocy.” He offered Rylan an exaggerated bow, and pulled back his left sleeve to show a golden bracer, celestite set into the ring on his middle finger instead of a sigil. “You can call me Sorche du Remerdii.”

Sorche is the adopted son of Remerdii, a landed gentleman who has managed to achieve great wealth, and foster brother to Kione Remerdii. Sorche was taken as a small child and given the name of the Remerdii’s dead son and brother. Sorche has always been considered a gentleman as long as he could remember, given good rooms and private tutors, encouraged to compete with his brother Kione. He’s better than Kione at the Mordache Art, fighting and other physical activities, but falls short at tact and diplomacy. Sorche just can’t help but take jabs when he sees the opportunity.

I’ve put another Sorche excerpt, longer this time, under the cut.
Continue reading

showcase of villainy, part iii

Villain Month

Here’s the weekly showcase for the third week in June. We’ve got one more week before the end of Villain Month!

I worked on my bully, Redaechyl, and wrote about what I think makes a good villain.


Saint Know-All started on her second villain: Darren Hare.


Aldersgatecycle has been working on Sir Sylvan DeLoire.


Nymeria spent this week focusing on Dawnelle Nymeron.


Ashley made a post on her villain’s setting.


That’s it for this week! I’ll post the final character showcase on July 1st!

a study in writing bullies

From Psychology Today:

Studies reliably show that [bullies] have a distinctive cognitive make-up—a hostile attributional bias, a kind of paranoia. They perpetually attribute hostile intentions to others. The trouble is, they perceive provocation where it does not exist. That comes to justify their aggressive behavior. Say someone bumps them and they drop a book. Bullies don’t see it as an accident; they see it as a call to arms. These children act aggressively because they process social information inaccurately. They endorse revenge. [link]

I was bullied constantly from the first grade until I managed to escape high school early. I always considered school to be a form of hell, a juvenile detention program invented by a sadist that really ought to only be served to those children who had already committed some crime. I have been to twelve different schools before making it into community college. Some are worse than others, but wherever I went I had a talent for attracting bullies.

The more I think about writing my bully character for the ‘Villain Month’ event, the more I just really want to go kill someone. Which really was my reaction back in school, too. Funny (or not) how that doesn’t seem to go away.

The good side? Well, I’ve had experiences with this type of person. I know what a really, really nasty bully sounds like, the tactics they use. And my heroine has the same reaction to bullies that I did (aggravate them further and make them really want to kill you). The bad side? I don’t think I could ever empathize with them, or get into their head without feeling ill, oily. I once tried to write about such a depraved character once that I felt ill for a week afterward. So I’m researching them academically instead.

Psychology Today’s article is quite good. I’m feeling sick already.

The lengths I go for this novel…

villain: redaechyl: rank and status

So I’ve been considering this week’s villain, and I’ve decided to bind Redaechyl in silver to the king. It gives him a more definite place in the courts, instead of just sitting around as a vague ‘king’s favorite’, and it explains why Kanichende allows him to remain despite his unpleasant personality. The wings remind the king of his romanticized dead sister, and (I’d imagine) he has enslaved all the city’s angelics (the proper nickname for the Mordache born with wings– it’s a rare trait).


A quick explanation on the Mordache’s slavery system:

The slave in iron. The common slave.
Men and women bound in iron are convicted criminals, usually murderers, thieves, rebels– anything serious that doesn’t warrant an immediate execution. They have no rights, and are usually worked to death.

The slave in bronze. The debtor.
Those wearing bronze bracers have sold themselves for something– money, services– or have fallen into a debt that they cannot repay. Often times the master of these slaves will set them to a profession to make them more useful. The maximum time a bronze slave may be imprisoned is twenty years, and they are the only slave with a time limit to their servitude. A bulk of the noblemen’s servants are actually bronze slaves. Anyone with wealth enough can take on a slave in bronze.

The slave in silver. The gentleman’s gentleman.
A slave in silver is considered to be more of a trusted servant, and is a high rank among slaves. Instead of selling themselves for money or physical possessions, swearing oneself to a master and taking on a silver bracer is a self-imposed vow of loyalty, akin to dedicating oneself for a great cause. A slave in silver commonly manages his master’s affairs (his master being a landed gentleman or of a higher rank), enforces his word and wishes, but ultimately is still a slave.

The slave in gold. The equal.
Only eldest-noblemen may have a slave in gold, and even the king can not have more than one. The slave in gold has given his life to his master, and it shows as the only rank that includes a name-change– the slave’s first name is followed by ‘du’, then the surname of the master (Rylan du Jadis, Sorche du Remerdii). A golden slave is seen as the ultimate disciple, the second-in-command and representative of his master in all things. They are brothers, lovers, devoted friends. The vows a golden slave take on are very near a vow of marriage, and they have been the source of some of the greatest love stories and betrayals that the Mordache have ever known.


No man in the Mordache cities may be legally enslaved unless he himself initiates the process, whether by an oath, a debt, or a crime. Most Mordache noblemen would never consider taking a golden slave, and will only give silver bracers. The king is of this mind.

A silver bracer marked with the king’s serpentine dragon allows Redaechyl the run of the palace, from the highest noblemen’s corridors to the pit, the whole of the university and the private rooms in the Arena. While some might halt a silver slave from certain activities, the king’s mark and Redaechyl’s wings give him the ability to literally get away with murder.