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Welcome to all those who have arrived from Writing from the Peak Website! I want to get into some nitty gritty about re-writes. So, let’s begin!
Let’s Be Honest About these Re-Writes
If you’re adding a romantic subplot, like I did. Or you’re polishing some language so that story or character arcs stand out, or you’re trying to make an impact with dialogue, then go be about your business. But there should be a light at the end of the tunnel. There should be a time when you can abandon this story and move on to the next one. Your job is not to create perfection, but to create art. This is why I push the critique group so much. Everyone needs a separate set of eyes to tell you if what you’re doing is good, or not. Those additional eyes will help make your story great.
What if you need a major overhaul? Ok. We can do that. But first ask yourself why. Is your world building off? Are their historical anachronisms in your story that are essential to the plot? Did you realize you told the story from the wrong point of view? (This happens, believe me!)
Is any part of your W.I.P. salvageable? Perhaps Act 1, or the last part of act 3? Maybe the midpoint, or the romantic subplot? Whatever can be salvaged should be kept and put into separate file folders. Then start your re-writes. As you do this, think about the plot beats. Think about the protagonist’s motivation and character arc. How can you put these on a pedestal and polish them so they shine in your story?
Remember, writing a novel takes grit. If you’ve come this far, you’ve got what it takes. I know how disheartening it can feel realizing you have to write another 80,000 words before your novel is done. I have been there. My first draft of The Gallowglass was 117,000 words. It took a year to write. It was also very bad. Oh, so very bad. When I re-wrote the novel, I couldn’t even save one paragraph. But I got through it. I now have a much better story. If I can do it, I know you can too.
The Nine Questions
Ask these questions about your work before, during and after you’ve written your first draft. The answers should change as your story progresses and you polish certain scenes.
1.) Is the protagonist’s motivation painfully obvious?
2.) Is the protagonist likeable? Do you want them to be?
3.) Do you have a theme? If so, is the theme obvious to your readers?
4.) Does your protagonist have a story arc? Is it clear and obvious?
5.) Do any of your supporting characters have a story arc? Are their arcs clear and obvious?
6.) Is your protagonist the cause of at least some of his own troubles? If not, why? If so, can he fix them?
7.) Is your protagonist able to reflect upon their decisions at the midpoint? If so, is she beginning to question her decisions?
8.) Is there a whiff of death in the second half of Act 2?
9.) Is there at least a partially satisfying conclusion for your reader? Do the good guys win? If not, is there something satisfying for your reader to grab ahold of at the end of your W.I.P.?
The Story Arc
In every film, opera, play and novel there are actually two stories going on. One is motivated by the plot. The overarching story that the protagonist and her friends are reacting too. The other story is about the protagonist’s inner journey. This is this is the character arc. Questions 1, 4, 6, 7, & 8 are about your protagonist’s character arc.
In the past, genre fiction like sci-fi or paranormal romance was heavy on plot, but light on character development. That time is quickly dying. All writers need to up their game and work on the character arc for their novel, regardless of the genre. It is very important that your readers see the protagonist grow, learn and change as the story progresses. And, you get bonus points for making your character arc and plot arc intersect! All the best novels have a character arc that intersects with the story arc.
There are times in the story, like in the beginning, when we learn what the hero really wants, and at the midpoint, when we see the hero realize maybe this isn’t what they want, that intersect with the story arc. If done well, they can be seamless and poignant. The character arc should be the focus of your re-writes. Look to make your protagonist’s personality stand out in the midst’s of the story arc.
I could go on about this, but local Colorado author Stant Litore wrote a book about this called Writing Characters Your Readers Won’t Forget: a Toolbox for Emerging Writers, on Amazon now for under $10. I highly recommend it.
Next month will talk about paths to publishing, getting an agent & if you want one, and the power of self-publishing.
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Wow. 2016 is OVER.
I know for a lot of my friends in the Denver writing community 2016 was awful, just awful. Professional setbacks, personal loss and a lot of fear for the future. I too, had my setbacks, professionally and personally. Some of my relationships frayed.
I even stopped talking to a dear friend and mentor in January of 2016 and haven’t heard from that person since. This doesn’t even begin to talk about all the talented people we lost last year, either.
Remember though, darkness is not the negation of light, but its absence. If you look for them, you’ll find little points of
light illuminating the way.
For me, 2016 was a very good year for my writing career. I made some wonderful acquaintances and had some great experiences. But enough vagaries. Let’s review.
At the end of 2015 I wrote on this blog that my goal for 2016 was to write four 85,000+ word novels for the year. I also said I would write four short stories and get one of those books published. I did not complete any of those goals.
This is what I did do:
Did a complete re-write of my first novel, The Gallowglass (pronounced gallowglauw). It was 109,100 words long.
I wrote a second novel. This one a thriller set during the Crusades. I call it Jerusalem’s Menace. It was 99,000 long.
I wrote three short stories. Of those three, two got published in anthologies.
So that’s pretty good, right? I completed about half my goals. Not bad, but not great.
As I was going through all of my writing this year, I started adding up words. Here is what I realized.
|WRITING PROJECTS||WORD TOTAL|
|The Setting Sun of Empire Short Story (pre-edits)||12,147|
|Answering the Bell Short Story (pre-edits)||10,462|
|Hero Maker Short Story (pre-edits)||6,822|
|Failed Nanowrimo Novel||3012|
Grand Total of words written in 2016 248,671 words
I know I’m under about 1,500 words but I’ll take it. I wrote around a quarter of a million words in 2016. That is HUGE! When I added the numbers up I kept double checking and still came up with this. I was simply blown away.
But this was just the beginning of my successes in 2016. Here are a list of the others:
- I joined Belmar Critique Group.
- I taught a class called How to Write Authentic African-American Characters for both the Pike Peak Writers summer Write Brain program and the RMFW Gold Conference.
- Lead or sat on seven panels at Denver ComicCon this year.
- I had two agents request two full manuscripts and a third agent ask for three chapters of each novel.
- Had a class on Renaissance costuming accepted for the 2017 Historical Novel Society Convention in Portland.
- I became a regular blogger for Pikespeakwriters.blogspot.com.
- Had The Setting Sun of Empire accepted into Penny Dread V Anthology by RuneWright Press.
- Had my first literary story, Answering the Bell, accepted into a charity anthology entitled Shatter Your Image,
- Finally, the thing I am most proud of, Nikki Ebright asked me to join her non-profit, Shiny Gardens. Shiny Gardens will now support Nikki in running Myth & Legends Con, as well as several other events planned for the future.
Looking back, I can honestly say some amazing things happened to me. I made relationships with writers and editors. I reached out and took advantage of opportunities. Most importantly, I tried to give back.
I have found that the more positive I am, the more I am willing to work, and the more I am willing to help, the more successful I will be. I can’t believe I’ve figured this out at 46, instead of 26, but better late than never.
I could be sad or angry or bitter about the things I failed at, or I can learn from them. I can look forwards and see the road to professional writer open in front of me. I can be upset about the things I didn’t do and didn’t get, or I can make a plan and work. I choose the latter.
So what’s going on in 2017? OK, here are my goals for this year:
- Write two novel length projects, 85K+ each.
- Write two 20k-50k novella/short novel length projects.
- Blog once a week on my site.
- Write six short stories, from 3-6K.
There is a saying that you have to write a million words before you get any good at it. Whether it was David Eddings, Jerry Pournelle, or Ray Bradbury who said it, is inconsequential. If it’s true, then I will be half way to a million words by the end of 2017.
I have some other writing-related goals as well. I want to attend the following conferences:
- Historical Novel Society Convention
- Pikes Peak Writers Convention
- Colorado Gold Conference
- Romance Writers of America Conference
Yes. I want to attend RWA Conference this summer. I literally don’t know how this is going to happen, but I am putting it out there. I wanna run with the big dogs and the big dogs run at RWA.
I hope you continue to follow me on my blog. If you can’t come back regularly, then sign up for my email list. If you choose to join, I’ll reach out about once a month with updates on where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing.
2017 looks to be amazing!