Author Archives: R. K. Brainerd

About R. K. Brainerd

I've been writing since my pre-teens, mostly in the realm of fantasy and sci-fi. My characters are pretty much always clamoring for attention in my head, and if I don't listen to them, they plague me with insane dreams and nightmares until I start writing. I also raise dairy goats, the evidence of which can be found on my Instagram. I've just recently begun my foray into the writing world and look forward to it all with devilish glee. Welcome to the adventure.

Prequel Problems: Likable Characters

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So I’m writing a prequel to my INITIUM series, the first book tentatively due out in Fall of next year. I wasn’t sure I wanted to write a prequel, as the events in it are fun mystery details throughout the first book, and you learn about them and why my main character is the way she is as the novel progresses.

But, it’s a lot of information, and my editor thinks I need a prequel so readers aren’t lost and/or inundated with too much information right off the bat. So I’m writing a prequel. The first draft is almost done — I wrote the final chapter, but I also left a bunch of ‘holes’ in the manuscript, scenes I felt I was forcing too much at the time, to come back and complete later. I’m writing those scenes now.

My biggest frustration so far is that a lot of the events in the prequel are what make my main character interesting in the first place, so before the events happens, my characters are…

Not that likeable. Actually, they’re coming across like spoiled little brats. Which goes with the territory, are they’re the daughters of a rich upperclass businessman — but I’m really worried it makes for some difficult reading. Or apathy about reading them, anyway.

And if people don’t want to read the book for your characters, they’re not going to read the book.

Fortunately, characters being likeable isn’t so important as characters being interesting.

Unfortunately, I don’t think my main character is either at the beginning. Perhaps I’m being too critical, because I’m so used to her, 5 years later, being a snarky badass. Or maybe I just haven’t written from an insecure 14 year old’s perspective for so long it’s hard to believe that readers will really connect with her voice and struggles…

I believe my main character is interesting (and even likable) by the end, but if the beginning doesn’t hook someone, then it’s kind of a moot point.

I’ve also never really written ‘on contract,’ or written a character arc from the very beginning like this, so I might just be out of my depth and scaring myself (I’ll be writing about this whole process here soon).

I’ve also never really written a prequel (at least something this big), which I’m beginning to understand has it’s own difficulties. Not the least of which is writing a character that you know… but isn’t the fully formed character of the later book who is probably more interesting in first place.

Either way, I’m becoming more thankful that I have an amazing editor who’s excellent at developmental editing, because I’m going to need some perspective on making this work. I think I’m too close to this character, or the character arc in general, or too concerned about the ‘writing of a relatable 14 year old’ to just write the 14 year old. I was a 14 year old. I remember. Why I be making this so hard.

Anyway, it will be educational to see what my editor suggests going forward. And I feel a little lazy, looking to my editor for direction instead of figuring it out myself. But the truth is, I’m still pretty shaky on what revisions really need to look like, which is my real fear. I don’t know if I’ve fully ever revised a manuscript in it’s truest meaning, so my skill level there is… dismal.

So there’s some anxiety about my meh-characters not becoming interesting enough with this lack of skill.

Anyway, this is all a moot point if I don’t have the draft done in the first place! I’m off to finish those few more thousand words. I want this draft done by the end of this month (which gives me like two days). It’s going to be far from perfect — but all that’s left are a few holes to make this thing complete.

 

Stay tuned for the regurgitation of my thoughts about writing my first ‘on contract’ piece… in a week or two.

 

Questions? Comments? Similar anxiety-rants?


Published: Behind the Scenes (April 2017)

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Well this is going to be a short one. Much the same as my last post, I’m working on the prequel project assigned by my editor. I will be writing a post about what it’s like to write for oneself vs. ‘contract writing’ as they say, but I’d like to finish writing the thing before I delve into that.

So, just in case you missed it! I’ve written about my initial foray into developmental editing, which was eye-opening to say the least. I also wrote a post about my Path to Publication, which highlights how I even got my publishing contract that I still can’t quite wrap my head around as actually having oh my god my book is going to come out next year —

*deep breath*

So while you wait for more crazy thoughts of behind the scenes, here’s a snippet of what’s taking up so much of my time lately. Don’t judge too harshly, it hasn’t gone through editing yet (ha!).

The windowpane was cold on the side of my head. I could just move and relieve the discomfort, but I didn’t. I sat there, useless. Or maybe I was punishing myself. Everybody was always worried about that lately. Survivor’s guilt, they called it.

But they didn’t know it actually was my fault. If I hadn’t told my biggest secret, none of it would have happened. He’d made sure to tell me how special I was, that the secret I hid from the world was the reason he’d had to take my sister and me. Not just to ransom, like most people kidnapped upper class girls for. But for something else, something that meant he hurt us, over and over, without even touching us…

The cold from the glass was seeping from my head, down my body. Annoying little shivers kept hitting me at intervals, pulling me out of my reverie. I pulled the blanket tighter and higher around me, but the cold still penetrated. It made me squirm on the window bench; between the cold and my butt falling asleep, I wanted to move.

Damn it, I couldn’t even be miserable properly. I couldn’t even punish myself for being alive when she wasn’t.

I flung myself up from bench and stalked across the room. My eyes burned, looking for something or throw or to hit. A pillow went first, but that didn’t feel like anything. The water glass on the bedside table went next. It made a loud sound against the wall before hitting to the ground, a large crack down its side. The damn glass couldn’t even shatter properly.

I slumped down on my bed, trying to cry, trying to feel anything but hollow, like I’d had all my insides sucked out by those things that had taken us and held us and burrowed into our heads like worms that ate through our brains –

I slapped myself sharply across the face. The gleeful bubbling panic under my breastbone was too close; I’d let it too close. My thoughts ran frantic through my head, like clawing hands searching for a way to rip open the memories and spill them forth like sewage.

Two deep breaths later, I knew I’d be able to conquer it. It wasn’t going to overwhelm me. I breathed deep and focused on one single point, keeping my mind still. It still took several more minutes of deep breathing before my hands stopped shaking.

The therapists my parents had been hiring weren’t completely duff. I’d mostly ignored all of what they’d said, because like everyone else, they wouldn’t listen to me when I’d told them the truth about what had taken us. But some of what they’d said about panic attacks helped.

The slapping bit was my own, though. Sometimes I needed something more drastic to get my stupid head’s attention.

I fell backwards across my four-poster, and nearly brained myself on the book I’d bought earlier today. Wincing, I yanked it out from under my head and stared at its dark cover.

It didn’t hold the answers I sought.

There was nothing in the book about what he was. Nothing had fit. Oh, plenty about the other things. Plenty about creatures that were more shadow than flesh, creatures that lived off of human blood, creatures that could change shape, ones that stole children and ate them, ones that looked to be a mix of several creatures, ones that controlled weather or elements – all of them categorized by their most common regions, favorite habitats, and common behaviors. Even dragons, and more creatures I’d never even dreamed of yet alone heard of from my grandmother.

Breathing deeply, I spent a few seconds calming, my train of thought courting the panic attack I’d just conquered.

Another thought hit me; my stomach gave a little lurch. The book held no answers about what he was, or why he’d taken us. But this couldn’t be the only book. And this couldn’t be the only way of finding new information. My grandmother was gone, everyone laughed off what I said – I was the only one willing to find out the truth.

The book was heavy and warm in my hands. It couldn’t be the only one with information like this. There had to be others of its kind, with more information, new information.

There was a way to find out who’d killed my sister.

There was a way to find the truth about the things that dwelled in the dark.

Comments? Questions? Laughter?

Have a fantastic writing day, friends.


My Path to Publication

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I was recently told that I’ve never actually shared a lot of my history as a writer. Which is funny and now seems obvious. With this in mind, I thought it might be fun to share my path to publication.

The INITIUM series, the series getting published, is actually the second series I’ve written (well, third, if you count daily micro-stories following the same character for a year and a half I stared when I was 12). I finished the first book in this first series, a story about an orphan dragon, the summer I was 14. I ripped apart and put back together that manuscript so many times… and talk about using every bad-writing trope in existence. Black and white villains, endless passages explaining everything, narrative that went on forever, preaching about this issue or that issue.

Anyway. The INITIUM series started as a concept in my head a little after I finished that first book in the dragon series.

It took me until I was 19 to actually get that first book in the INITIUM series down, and it was so much better because of it. This is mostly because I was in college and had no time, but it allowed me to really process the lessons I learned from writing the dragon story and try out what I’d learned. For example, the explaining everything overmuch problem I had with the dragon story? Yeah, no. I drag out questions for DAYS in the INITIUM series. I thought about and re-wrote the beginning of Fairian’s first story so many times, the original concepts are the same only in name and vague direction.

I started querying for agents with my dragon series around 18. I really only got form rejections or silence as a response, a frustration I’m sure you’ve all experienced. As I was finishing up INITIUM, and learning a lot more about what was marketable, I realized that it was probably a fruitless adventure to try to launch my author career with my dragon story. It had too many common tropes and similarities. While it may be publishable eventually, it wasn’t something I could start with.

Again, though, I learned a lot from starting querying with my dragon story, from how to write a query letter to researching agents. It set me up in a much better place to start querying for Fairian’s story.

The queries began. The form rejections and silences followed. A few agents did answer, rejecting it based off of those personal things you can’t predict — not connecting with the world, not sure the plot fit into the other authors she represented, etc. Disheartening for sure, but all the comments I did receive complimented me on my voice, my style, and my characters. That helped a lot.

I went to the Willamette Writer’s Conference in 2015, where I learned a TON, and got to pitch my story directly to agents and editors. With help, I managed to hone my pitch into something reasonably good. I also switched my pitch last minute to a woman who seemed to be looking for something a lot closer to what I was writing — though, it turned out she was an editor to a small publisher based in Portland, not an agent.

Despite being nervous as hell, my pitch went well. Way better than I expected. I could tell she was tired listening to all the authors pelting her with information all day (I was in the afternoon, and with 15 minutes a pitch, switched out like clockwork, for 8 hours — you do the math), but I was respectful and she seemed to perk up at the story. She said my novel sounded interesting, and like it would fit into their repertoire. Excited, I sent off three chapters the following week (after getting it reviewed a few more times by the friends I’d just met at the conference).

Commence… waiting. Meanwhile, I make my eyes bleed doing research on the publisher, small publishers in general, the dangers to look out for, how an author becomes successful with small publishing, etc. There were a few things that bugged me — this particular publisher’s website was non-professional, and held a few of the ‘warning’ signs that articles like this talk about (fantastic article, you should read it).

Three months later with no word, I gently nudged and asked about my submission. She profusely apologized and said they’d been having a few technical issues, that she didn’t think she got my email, and to submit through their new submitting service. Starting a feel a little weird about it, I did it anyway.

Meanwhile, I started entering Twitter contests, like #PitMad and #P2P. Similar response as querying before. Mostly form rejections, a few compliments here and there. I opened my horizons to small publishers, since I was getting more comfortable with the idea. Got a few strange rejections from that process.

In one of these contests, another editor at the same publishing house as before asked for a submission. I mentioned it was already in their queue, and gave the title and details when she asked.

Then, via another Twitter contest, I heard from Carrie from Glass House Press. She was really interested in my pitch, and wanted pages. Within 24 hours, she wanted the whole manuscript, along with all my social media information, and my plans for marketing.

This publisher checked out a lot better than the other one. Much more professional website and online presence, no big problems in Writers Beware, and I got a good feeling from the emails with the editor.

Commence… more waiting.

I’m pretty sure I started the third INITIUM book during this time, entered more contests, met awesome writer friends all striving for the same goal. I wrote blog posts, tried to ignore the excitement/dread feeling in my gut, stared at my manuscript and agonized over it’s faults.

I kind of forgot I’d submitted to that first publisher — it had been around 6 months at that point, and I was pretty sure I was going to reject an offer if they gave it anyway. I received a note through their submission website to go ahead and submit the full manuscript. They mentioned in the notes that it would take at least a year to get back to me. I didn’t go forward with that — between my funny feelings and the YEAR response for a small publisher, it just didn’t sound like a good fit for me.

It was shortly after that I entered a mentoring contest, where I met a ton of really neat people. I had a ton of fun interacting, guessing which tweets were about my own, finding a new friends. Then, shockingly — I was chosen as one of the mentees.

An hour later, Glass House Press sent an email saying they’d like to offer me a contract.

Nothing, for years, and then two great surprises at once. I talked it over with the editor, explaining that I’d been selected for the mentorship and I’d hate to miss out (not just because of the agents at the end, but because of the networking, lessons, general fun) and she said she had no problem with waiting for me. So, I accepted the mentorship, had a blast, didn’t get really any bites from the agents who signed on to look at the finished project of the contests, and then contacted the publisher back.

She reviewed the manuscript again in it’s changed form — taking a few months — and then offered me a contract.

I was very nervous about this part. I didn’t have an agent to back me up, there are many horror stories on the internet about the whole thing, etc. I reviewed it carefully — reading up on every publishing clause in existence, religiously reading any articles from experts in the field — read it over with my father who works with contracts (of another kind) all the time, with one of his business friends who works with sports-publishing contracts. Not the same, obviously, but I had a few intelligent minds look it over who weren’t in omg-a-publisher-wants-me euphoria. I requested a few clarification sentences, changed a few words, and…

Violà. I signed a contract with Glass House Press.

You’d expect what followed would be furious conversation, edits, and a game plan moving forward. It was a bit anti-climatic, to be honest. With developmental edits, she wanted to start working with a thorough outline. So after I sent that to her, while she worked through it, I collaborated with the social media manager, building a game plan, focusing certain aspects (my Instagram is not longer just about goats!), and building a few up from scratch (actually starting a FaceBook author page…).

After a while, developmental edits began… which is a whole new subject. I’ve started chronicling the whole behind-the-scenes-in-being-published thing, which starts with this blog post here. (Feel free to check it out if you’re interested!)

And that, writer-friends, is the first leg in my publishing journey.

I’m pretty excited about the next steps. I really feel like I can move forward now as an author, carving out a path for myself with books and everything else. Despite being noticed, being published traditioning, the hungry, notice-me feeling isn’t gone. Neither is the fear of failure or not being good or not knowing enough. There are so many other steps going forward, so many other mileposts. But I like that there’s always the next goal post. I like that ‘getting published’ isn’t the end, or some gate that once you walk through it’s all smooth going. It’s a challenge, an on-going opportunity.

It’s all an adventure, and I’m exhilarated to make it happen.

 

P.S. Oh yeah, that first small publisher that was interested in my manuscript? I’ve since learned they’re legit, and not trying to scam anyone. But I still don’t think it’d be a good fit for me. The benefit of a small publisher is that you get more attention and more say on your book, at the cost of the power and prestige of a big publisher. For me personally I didn’t like how they treated authors, their public image, and I got the feeling I wouldn’t get the attention that’s kinda the point of a small publisher.


Published: Behind the Scenes (March 2017 edition)

Published- Behind The Scenes.pngIn October of last year I signed a contract with Glass House Press for my alternate-history fantasy series to debut in 2018. For fun and for the benefit of anyone interested, I started up this blog series chronicling monthly updates of the behind-the-scenes in being published. Read the introductory post here! A list of all the other posts I’ve written so far can also be found at the end.

In my previous post, I got in-depth about developmental editing and progress with that. This post, I’m going to have a little less to talk about, because as mentioned before, I’m writing a prequel to my series. So what’s primarily happening behind the scenes? Lots of writing. Which, hey, we’re all doing, that isn’t anything new. This entry is going to end up a little diary-like.

The basic reason for the need of this prequel is that my world is very complex, and a lot to jam into a first chapter. Additionally, my first book arguably starts out too far into my character’s arc. My editor thinks there too much for the reader to catch up on and takes away from getting the reader into the story. It can easily be too confusing, with all the cultural terms along with hints about character and world history I’m throwing about.

I personally think it’s fun to have a bit of mystery about the character and world to drive the story… but I can’t be sure I’ve created enough of a reason for the reader to care about Fairian and hang around for getting answers.

(So we’ll see how that all works out when we get to the editing of the actual writing and how the story works out bit, but meanwhile — )

I’ve been assigned to writing the prequel. Which is unfortunately slow going, as I haven’t really written anything (fiction) on ‘contract’ before, so I’m discovering the jarring difference between writing for oneself and writing for someone else. There are many author-ly laments on all platforms of social media about this problem, so I don’t feel like I need to go into it here. Needless to say the experience will be good practice.

Despite the reasons for actually making the prequel happen, I am discovering my love for the story. The events in the prequel I’ve always treated as past history, as influencing ‘current’ events and seen through the lens of the present. Writing the prequel as present, in the eyes of my main character that’s 5 years younger… well, that’s pretty interesting. And hard. A lot of the characteristics that make up Fairian (my main character) have developed in part because of The Events in the prequel, so they’re not in place in her personality yet. But I can’t have her a completely different person. So I have to plant the seeds of her later personality, then have The Events, and then show the start of her personality change.

This is surprisingly hard. Mostly in the sense that Fairian is kind of a spoiled, naive brat at this point in time, and I’m kind of wondering how to make her even likable. I read an article the other day that mentioned something like this, but emphasized that (in the beginning of a story at least) you need to make your characters interesting before likable, worry about likability later. That, I’m pretty sure I can do.

One of my editors suggestions for clarifying my giant world for readers while still keeping mystery for my characters was to write from another point of view. I struggled with this for a little while because this is really Fairian’s story, and I have a weird complex with keeping things mysterious and throwing questions around like confetti. But, I found a happy medium. Inter-spliced between chapters from Fairian’s perspective are reports from … basically this world’s version of the magical CIA.

So in essence, I get to write Incident Reports and Correspondence of global magical clandestine operations in an alternate reality.

Just reading that I get excited.

(Now just to make sure they end up being exciting as they sound, ha!)

Camp NaNoWriMo hit just in time to help complete this thing. It’s going to be a novella (I think anyway…) so less words to write, but unfortunately I’m being so nitpicky about the craft and details it’s getting in the way of getting words down. I’m re-remembering to just get the words down and worry about editing later. Thus, Camp NaNoWriMo is helpful as the kick in the pants I need. I want to have this thing done by the end of April. I’ve written 50k in NaNoWriMo several times before; getting out 30k more should be just fine as long as I stay focused.

Speaking of focused. I need to turn my attention to writing all those words! This whole weekend ended up being “manual labor weekend” with barn cleaning and house building, and before that I was flat on my back as a migraine reminded me I’ve been messing with my sleep schedule a little too much (excuses, excuses). I need to get back at it. I still don’t feel fully recovered, but maybe the fuzzy-headedness will help just get the words out and not have a complex over all the details…

Thanks for reading, friends! Stay tuned for April’s update in a few weeks; this post ended up being a little late for a variety of reasons, next time’s should be on time. Let me know what you think, share experiences, feel free to commiserate …

Happy writing!


My Winter – as told by goats

All right, so we’re going to stray from the usual writing topic for this post. Partially because I’m not sure what to write about here, and partially because I want to.

As many people around North America are experiencing, spring time is here. (Except not in Oregon apparently, because we got freaking SNOW just earlier this month.) I thought I’d display my winter, as according to goat pictures… You’re going to be subjected to many pictures of goats. Goats in the winter. Goats in snow. Baby goats. Goat noses. I’m pretty sure you’ll survive the torture.

If you follow me on Instagram, many of these pictures many be familiar — but never in a fun story and all together like this!

Let’s start with a moment from Fall.

Three of my goats traveled to my parent’s house during the summer to clear some of their brush. As the weather turned, they came home. And it was a little comical. First, we had Phe and Duchess, who wanted to drive.

And then there was their expressions when they arrived…

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What… where have we been taken to!?

Phe and Blackberry immediately got into a fight, as they were herd bosses in their respective herds, and they had to work out who was herd boss of the overall herd now.

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They eventually figured out there differences and everyone loved each other again.

Now let’s talk about the holidays. Thanksgiving I ended up spoiling them. Look at this masterpiece of edibles I created for them. Apples, two kinds of grain, vitamins sprinkled on top…

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The boys were a little lost on how to eat the apples, but everyone else pretty much thought they’d died and gone to goat heaven.

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When Christmas came around, we (the humans) were a bit more selfish. We decided to drag all the goats out to my parent’s house Christmas Eve, so we could spend the night and not worry about having to run back home to feed them. I have many sides of the family, so the holidays become pretty hectic bouncing from house to house. Moving the goats made it so we didn’t have to run back to our house as well.

(Goat Brains: torn between eating the food
— and staring at the world as it sped by them)

They weren’t too happy about their small temporary enclosure, but they sure did like the walks that the whole family took them on for the days we were there. Things to eat EVERYWHERE. My parents definitely enjoyed their company, and my extended family was eager to meet the ladies I talk about so much…

(Sari is very concerned I’m leaving in the loud metal machine)

Not long after that, the first snow hit. I’m pretty sure that the goats have never seen snow before… or at the very least, never seen that much snow, where it actually stuck around. It’s too bad WordPress doesn’t support video files; I have a fantastic video of them racing back and forth with me once they figured out it didn’t hurt them.

No one wanted to leave the barn, but I kicked a few goat butts outside one day to make them get exercise. Needless to say, they weren’t really happy with me (Sari stood there pathetically while trying to only stand on two feet at the time).

And they had NO idea what to do with all the white cold stuff at their feet…

(Goat brain: Do we eat it??)

A month or so later, Beltane and Inanna became old enough to need to establish their hierarchy in the herd with each other, so that was a big day. (Note mom in the background making sure it doesn’t go too far.) I’m still not entirely sure who won. I think Beltane (the black one) did. Again — I also have a very funny video of Beltane playing king of the hill and refusing to let her sister get up on the brick mountain with her…

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And now that we’re halfway through MARCH, the sun occasionally does come out to grant us with it’s presence. The goats won’t step outside if there’s a hint of rain, so it’s a pretty big deal when the sky is clear.

It’s pretty great to go outside with them and read, too.

My summers are peppered with memories of napping out in the sun with the goats (who will lay with/on me and nap too), so besides the obvious I’M SICK OF THE RAIN, I’m pretty excited for summer to get here. I also can get a decent amount of writing done when I go outside with a laptop and watch them graze. They are fairly distracting when they try to jump on me and the computer of course… but that’s another story.

And don’t worry, I won’t blog TOO much about goats. Though, I’m pretty sure I’m going to post something when Sari and Blackberry kid (early May!), so look forward to pictures of brand new babies in not too long here…

Until then, toodles! I hope this was fun and entertaining for you all. Feel free to comment and share!

 


Published: Behind The Scenes (Feb 2017)

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Welcome to the February 2017 edition of Published: Behind the Scenes, where I talk about all the fun things that happen to get my book on the shelf.

If you missed the introduction post or the post from January, they can be found here and here.

Without further ado, see below!

February has been a rush (and I was all worried I’d have nothing much to share!). I got my first professional edit letter from my publisher. You know, ever. Which is a huge thing to begin with anyway, but then on top of that, it was developmental edits, which I have zilch experience with.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had developmental edits done with a professional editor, but I was surprised to realize that most of the work is done almost entirely from the outline. From the outline, the plot, stakes, and connections between scenes are all assessed to make sure that they all forwarded the plot and they’re not just a bunch of loosely connected points.

Which, in theory, seems straightforward.

(Why does it always so seem straightforward on paper or after the fact…)

The biggest complication to this whole process was that my outline was very unclear. Most of my themes and points were too vague or seemed unconnected, because I wasn’t writing out how they were connected or the details which made it relevant, which made it difficult to, you know, assess all of that. On top of that, since there’s a bit of a mystery element in the novel, I’d definitely not explained everything.

I know you’ve probably all heard this person, but seriously, don’t be mysterious when talking to your editor. Tell all the secrets. Get your point across. I didn’t even realize the things I hadn’t shared because I’m so used to them being secrets for books later on — but you need to tell your editor!

But overall, there was some definite face-palming on my end as I realized yet again… I hadn’t explained that… which was why everybody was so confused. I’ve always used outlines just as a general structure, and a way to jog my memory and keep me on path. I don’t know if I’ve ever actually written a detailed outline like what is actually called for in this situation.

But anyway.

The first run through of my outline mostly involved my editor and I getting on the same page of understanding. On top of everything else, I’ve been playing a little loose with the rules and structure of storytelling, so she gave me a crash course in understanding the basics.

To which I was like — but yeah I’m this AMAZING thing where I break the rules. Haaaa. Yeah right.

The biggest worry at the beginning is that there doesn’t seem to be enough at stake. I was relying on the intrigue of the world and all the questions I pose to drive the start… but that’s probably not going to be enough. There needs to be tension, a sort of deadline — not necessarily the world ending, you know, but something.

So, more stuff in the beginning, tension-related stuff. Which seems so simple and straightforward and I don’t know why I didn’t get that before. Probably because I was so focused on how cool I was using mystery and questions to drive parts of the plot.

So, the somewhat counterintuitive conclusion that came out of this: I need to write more. My 109k word novel needs more words.

To continue with the theme of my not explaining enough, my editor also thinks I started the book too far into my main character’s arc. The initial trigger, or catalyst, to make her this answers-driven rebellious intelligent fiend, is something that’s learned as the book progresses, but isn’t known from the beginning. My editor is concerned there’s too much explanation that needs to be written in the first chapter because of this. Mostly because I created a really complex world.

To which I’m like: but… but… I like my subtle hinting and clues for all the answers! (which isn’t a good enought answer, in case you were wondering)

But anyway. The result of all of this, is that I’m writing a prequel novella.

This prequel will show how my protagonist got to where she is in my first book: all the themes and important points that had to come together to form her after the catalyst of her sister’s death. It’s also going to introduce the world, taking the pressure off the first book to get everyone on the same page within the first chapter. We’re working through the outline of that as well (hey, I’m learning how to be a plotter and write from an outline!), and I should be starting actual writing on it in the next few weeks.

Some part of me feels the prequel is redundant, that everything is already said in the first book, at least mentioned if not explained. But I’m also discovering (well, building) a story that’s a lot bigger than what I’d initially had in my head, and it’s giving me time to build the world out with more clarity.

If this prequel definitely happens, it’s going to be weird releasing it first versus the actual book. I’m definitely having anxiety it won’t be interesting enough, that releasing a novella first instead of a full length novel as my first book ever is bizarre. But that’s probably just anxiety about releasing anything anyway.

For fun, I’d like to share the progress that my outline has gone through so far. Just to provide a little context to what I’m talking about.

This is the first chapter in the outline originally:

Chapter One:

The book begins with Fairian sneaking out of the house. It’s obvious she’s waiting for something, and she gets attacked, and then saved by Daimyn. Excited by the new lead, Fairian asks questions. He warily answers before warning her off coming out at night, and eventually knocking her out in an attempt to scare her.

As you can tell, there’s not much there. It made perfect sense to me, because I have all the themes and connections in my head. And here’s what it is now:

Chapter One

Fairian sneaks out of the house to find a creature – now that she’s in the new city of Farfalla, which is swamped in intrigue and mystery, she thinks she may have luck getting answers about her sister’s death. Mixed with descriptions of the city, there are brief mentions of backstory that give a glimpse into world structure, family life, and how long she’s been on this quest.

She gets attacked by a strigoi, and ‘saved’ by a mysterious man. While she’s peeved about the loss of the strigoi, she realizes that this man knows something, and asks questions. He warily answers a few questions before warning her off her search and eventually knocking her out in an attempt to scare her.

I imagine the first chapter will go through further edits, but for now, it’s clearer. I’m itching to get into the actual content of the first chapter instead of just talking about the content… but clarifying on what the chapter needs to be is helpful, I will admit.

After the first chapter, there’s some change to the plot itself. Because the second chapter needs to further tension and get the plot going with a goal (my original goal not quite ‘big’ enough), the original chapter two was too slow. This is besides the fact that the outline was, again, not nearly clear enough in what aspects, tensions, and themes are being developed out at that point.

So here’s the second chapter initially:

Chapter Two:

Fairian wakes up in her own bed, her maid announcing her new martial arts teacher was arriving. She meets Mr. Kearney and he agrees to teach her. Afterwards, her best friend Tiffany and her decide to go shopping: this reveals more about Farfallan history and make-up, and Fairian mentions more on the Environmental crisis.

How does that even explain anything? Seriously, it seems so obvious now that this outline is NOT clear enough.

Now, alongside clarification, there’s a new aspect to drive the plot forward:

Chapter Two

Fairian wakes up in her own bed, and decides the Mr. Mysterious from last night must know things, and she’s going to track him down and beat the answers out of him if she has to. She interviews with Mr. Kearney, a local martial artist, who agrees with teach her. It becomes obvious she’s been taking defense lessons for a while, in response to wanting to be able to protect herself. While it seems her father is reluctantly supportive of this, her mother makes it obvious that it was a BIG battle to even have an interview – and she’s upset about Fairian’s new instructor, thinking the move to Farfalla would end that ‘unladylike hobby.’

At lunch Fairian sees an article in the newspaper that reminds her of what happened when Fairian and her sister were taken. Her mother nitpicks at Fairian’s clothes, posture, attitude, etc (probably exacerbated because of losing the battle about the martial arts instructor) until in frustration Fairian agrees to go shopping for clothes appropriate to this part of the world — privately thinking she can sneak away and track down more information about the news article she saw. Their family ward and her best friend, Tiffany, comes along with. The drive to the market gives a glimpse into some environmental history and Farfallan culture.

Putting up with her mother’s ministrations for only a while, Tiff and Fairian manage to sneak away and head to the Central Library to search the news of the past few years. She finds out that many people have had strange psychological breaks where they supposedly saw their nightmares come to life, and they’re all sent to the same mental hospital. Starkly reminded of her past, Fairian sets getting into the hospital as her next objective.

As you can see, that was a heck of a lot clearer. Also, the issue with the people stalked by their nightmares and the mental hospital was originally a plot point much further in the book. Since a more pressing goal was needed to get the plot moving more quickly (beyond finding out who the mysterious character is in the first chapter), I moved it up and changed it around a bit. So far I feel pretty happy with it.

I’m having brief struggles with feeling possessive over my story and like it might be being changed too much. But, I will admit, finding my own ways to fix whatever problem is there has been a tad fun. And seeing improvements in my manuscript has been neat.

It’s a balance, between sticking true to the story you want to tell and letting more knowledgable people guide you on what needs to be changed. It’s definitely been tense and a little nerve-wracking as my baby is being pulled apart and put back together, but good overall.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? Have any of you gone through developmental edits like this? What was your experience?


A Bit of Magic Found

The other day at work, a guy came in to work with legit multi-colored eyes. One was a pale, pale blue, and the other not-quite halved between whisky-gold and dark brown. It was kind of hard to keep up polite conversation because his eyes were so striking.

On the other hand, I could only imagine how many times a day people stared at him, so I figured, hey, having a normal conversation might be a relief, so I ignored it and kept to being bright and perky (life in customer service, you know).

What surprised me most about the encounter was how very similar it was to the cheesy descriptions of encountering amazing eyes found in books. You really notice, the world kinda halting for a second.

Of course, that might have just been my writer brain trying to figure out the exact words to describe it later.

And no, my romance novelist friends, it wasn’t like that. It was more along the lines of … here was a bit of magic. Maybe reality was more interesting than thought. What was his story?

Also, before y’all start turning this into a YA meet-cute, let me remind you the guy was probably 45 and I’m 23 (which is a reminder, maybe, that the guys with cool eyes do grow up).

Anyway, I felt like sharing because it felt like I’d found a tiny bit of the magic we’re usually writing into our books.

So thanks, random guy, for coming into my work while I was there and making my afternoon pretty cool.