‘painted’ — draft two complete!

And my second draft of ‘Painted’ is finished!

‘Painted’ is the first of my new project, The Forever Series, a series of novellas about magic, monsters, near-infinite worlds, cursed immortals, and an epic love story. When it’s finished, it’ll be released as a free ebook online. (The sequels we’ll be selling for a dollar apiece.)

We’ve got work to do still, but in the meantime, here’s my work-in-progress painting for the cover.

editing: wyrren jadis versus distraction

It’s been quiet over here, I realize, though that doesn’t mean it’s been unproductive. I actually like the editing process; I have a very strong internal editor, a good laser printer, and a supply of red pens. Chapter one has been gone over; I’m midway through correcting chapter two. Really, once I get down to work, I can go pretty darn fast.

I had a birthday earlier this week– I’m twenty-five now. Kindof shocking, really; this firmly establishes me as a grown-up. I celebrated by riding horses and playing video games. The Sims 3 doesn’t work so well on my computer, but I’m bullying it into behaving anyway.

To those of you who don’t know, The Sims series is like a game of dolls that fight you for control. You make houses for them, buy them furniture, and set up dramas, careers, hobbies… I love this sort of thing. But last night I’d made a Sim-Eliza, put her in her house, and realized partway through the evening that Sim-Eliza was hunched over her computer with the same bad posture, working on her novel, and making better progress than I was. Her ‘writing skill’ bar was filling up, little by little.

I turned off the game and went back to my word processor.

To the point! I’ll be done polishing up chapter two soon, onto chapter three (there are thirteen chapters in the book) and I’m coming to the point where I’ll need test readers to go over the story chapter by chapter. I’ll send off a chapter, they’ll read it and make comments. … And the editing afterward will be the last before I start agent shopping.

Anyone interested? I have a few test readers already, but I wouldn’t mind more. Anyone who hasn’t been following along with the project should know that this is gritty fantasy, and can get quite violent.

In the meantime, ‘Revision 1’ progress is now on the sidebar.

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.

on rewriting

David Gerrold wrote a book called ‘Worlds of Wonder’, focused on fantasy and science fiction writing. I enjoyed reading it– he had a very friendly style, and it was easy to empathize with him… especially once he started out by telling a story about how a terrible writing professor told him he wouldn’t amount to anything in the field, and his first published works were inspired out of rage. This isn’t of course to say that I agreed with everything in his book, but two of the points he made stuck with me, which is fairly good considering I’m an overly critical skeptic.

I’ll paraphrase his sentiment.

The first million words are for practice. Don’t worry. It doesn’t count. Practice writing your book. Practice editing it. Practice sending it out. Don’t worry. You’re just practicing. Practice receiving rejection letters. And if someone is foolish enough to publish one of your practice novels, that doesn’t mean anything either. Practice cashing that check. After those first million words, then you can start taking yourself seriously.

Perhaps this is something personal, perhaps not. I found this passage extraordinarily liberating, probably because I get anxious before I start writing or drawing. Am I starting in the right place? Is this really the way I want to present this? I have such a hard time shutting my inner editor up. NaNoWriMo was one of the best things I’ve done– it let me finish the 0-draft of my book, with the knowledge that I would be going back and rewriting everything. Like doing small thumbnail sketches in art, the terrible, rushed version still told me where I was going, what elements I would be using. I got out a blank sheet of paper for the second version and rewrote it more concisely, longer, emphasizing some of the right details. And I’m planning on starting almost entirely from scratch a second time before I get into editing the prose itself. I need to get all the elements correct first before I start polishing my piece. And I might be overly optimistic, but I think my writing is getting stronger with each pass.

Don’t worry. It doesn’t count. It’s just for practice.

I’m going to make this book shine.

finishing chapter one

The second rewrite of my first chapter has just been completed. It’s much stronger, the setting is firmly in place, it’s terribly long (7,500 words), it sparks with tension, and it just may be the best thing that I’ve ever written. I am thrilled, exhausted, and slightly terrified, because I’ve printed out copies for my four test readers. Once they finish, it goes to my writing critique group. I am now ready to continue with the first rewrite, with has languished for the last few days while I’ve slogged on this piece. Expect my word count meter to start climbing again soon.

I will say this much. Wyrren Jadis is an amazing character. I’m terrified that I’m going to handle her badly. She’s frustrating to direct, stubborn, impossible to express. But when I can use her correctly, she outshines them all.

I love this book.