Category Archives: My Works

This story is a chameleon.

cropped-pen-and-paper.jpg

A few months ago I wrote about The Mists of the Crossworlds, a short story that decided to become a novelette after it went through the first round of beta readers. You can read my post about that here if you are interested. So I went back to the drawing board, did an intense brainstorming session (that might have involved some alcoholic beverages), and added another 6k words to the story.

Well, now it’s finally done and ready to be unleashed on the world, I thought as I wrote THE END for the second time. I ran the story through the meat grinder of the first edit, rewrote 90% of it again, and send it to my beta readers yet again.

Then I got the comments back from one of my beta readers, the awesome Derek Pietras, and I was in for a surprise.

“Great story,” he said. “But the ending feels rushed and it feels like you left a good chunk of the story out.”

My first reaction upon reading this was “Not again!” I was so sure that this time I had uncovered everything this story had to give, and I was frankly a bit tired of it. So I put both my draft and the critique away and decided to sleep on it.

Not over

When I came back the next day and got to thinking about the ending of The Mists, I had to agree with Derek – it really felt rushed and abrupt. It left the reader with more questions than answers, which could be rather frustrating.

So I went back to basics and considered the main theme of the story, which is the interaction between the mists of the crossworlds and the Guides who travel the paths. That’s when I saw that while I had brought the protagonist to some sort of resolution in the end, I never even touched the conclusion of that main theme. So my beta reader was absolutely right: this story is far from finished. By the looks of it, I will end up adding at least another 4-5k words before I’m finally done.

While I was thinking about the ending, I realized that there was a whole additional layer that I needed to add to this story. So I’m looking at yet another full rewrite.

I must admit that this realization was both a bit disappointing and rather exciting.

Disappointing because I was looking forward to make The Mists of the Crossworlds my first self-published work. I even had a cover picked out, and I had a list of trustworthy editors. And I had spent the last few weeks educating myself about all the intricacies and pitfalls of the self-publishing route. So yes, I was disappointed that this important milestone in my writing career has to be postponed yet again.

But I am truly excited because there is so much more to this story than I thought when I first started working on it back in March. I feel like an archeologist peeling layer upon layer of dirt to uncover more and more treasures. And this new layer is not something I had planned for when I wrote this draft, yet now that I look at it, the hints are already hidden within the text. How did that happen?

I heard other writers talk about how sometimes their stories or their characters would surprise them, but this is the first time (well, technically the second time with this particular story) that this happens to me. The feeling is absolutely amazing. This is a story that keeps on giving.

So I’m going back to the drawing board again, reworking my outline, and I’m eager and excited to jump back into the writing process. Hopefully, once I’m done with it this time, I will be able to give my readers a truly interesting and well-written story.

So tell me, my fellow writers, has something like that ever happened to you? Have you had a story that just kept evolving and changing its colors, like a chameleon?

3915-chameleon-800x600

Writing is a life-long journey

writing - lifelong journey

Let me start this post with a personal anecdote. I have a full-time job and a family, which doesn’t leave much time for writing. In the past year, I had slowly taught myself to write whenever I had a few spare minutes, but I do the bulk of my writing at night before bed and during lunch. So I’m pretty used to showing up at restaurants with a notebook or a printout and a pen, and usually people don’t pay much attention to the crazy lady in the corner boot mumbling to herself and scribbling furiously in a notebook.

But last week I had an interesting encounter which made me think about what I am, what I do and where I go from here.

I had a “writing lunch” at Applebee’s last week when the waitress asked me what I was doing. I told her I was writing a short story. She seemed genuinely interested and asked if I had anything published.

Got anything published

This is when the first shift in perception happened. See, up until May this year, I had been a pre-published or aspiring author. But then my short story, A Small Detour, got accepted and published in this anthology. If you are interested, you can read my post about this exciting event.

So when asked about published work, I could legitimately answer, “Well, yes, I have a short story on amazon,” and give her the name of the anthology. And then something extraordinary happened: the waitress came back with her Kindle and made me input the name of the anthology for her. And then she bought the book!

Of Dragons and Magic

And I realized something important – I was actually a published author, even if all I had published so far was a short story. When I began my writing journey last October, I hadn’t even dreamed to be able to achieve that within a year.

This also made me think about why I do this. I mean, when I started the first draft of my novel Of Broken Things, getting something published had been the sum of my ambition. Ten months into the journey, I realize that for me it’s a life-long commitment. Money is not the end goal (though it would sure be nice to earn some) and neither is fame. My goal is to create compelling stories that people would want to read, because seeing the excitement in the waitress’s eyes when she said she couldn’t wait to read the anthology was the best reward I could ask for. She would spend a few hours blissfully lost in the wonderful worlds the authors have created, and one of them was mine.

So where do I go from here? Well, I continue writing of course, because the more I write, the more ideas pop into my head waiting to be put into stories.

I’m halfway through the first major edit of my novel Of Broken Things. I have the ghost of an idea along with most of the characters for my NaNo 2014 project.

I’m editing a novelette I had written back in May, and I have another unrelated short story to edit as well.

I have finished a new short story set in the same world as A Small Detour and about the same characters, and I have ideas for at least three more stories in this world. Once I finish them all, I am considering self-publishing them as a series. More about that in future posts.

I also want to dust off a project I had started a couple years ago. Back then I was just dabbling in writing; I had no idea that writing was hard work, and that first drafts always sucked, and that you had to push through it all, good day or bad day, to get to the end. I got frustrated because what had seemed so awesome in my head turned out total crap on paper and abandoned the project. But the story had potential and I love the characters, so I want to give it another chance.

Oh, and did I mention the dozens of half-baked ideas clamoring in my head and which might or might not turn into full-fledged stories?

Life-is-great-570px

So all is well in my world: I am a published author, I am still in love with what I do and I have plenty of ideas to last me for a while!

Editing woes – the burnout.

In the past four months, I have been steadily working on rewriting / editing my novel Of Broken Things, and in the past two months I had been doing only that and nothing else. I also signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo with this revision, so the pressure was on.

On hindsight, joining Camp NaNo was a mistake, because I had been struggling with motivation to pick up my work for the last two weeks, and I was feeling increasingly guilty about it… which made me even less happy about diving into the revisions… which made me even guiltier for not doing it. Vicious cycle!

Lack of Motivation
Lack of Motivation

It took me a while to realize what was happening, but last night it hit me like a ton of bricks – I had burned out on revisions. This realization was rather surprising, because it never happened to me before. Well, to be honest, I have never had to tackle such a big revision either. I had only edited two short stories before and both of them had been knocked out in a couple weeks. So this is the first time in my (short) writing career that I meet face to face with this particular monster.

I have learned two things from this misadventure.

1. Burnout happens even when editing.

I had read plenty of blogs about writers experiencing burn out when they write their first draft, but never about the same happening during the editing stage. Guess now I know that you can get burned out while editing as well. Lesson learned. Moving on.

2. I need variety to thrive.

I guess I have a mind form of ADD, because I can’t concentrate on one project for a significant amount of time. I think two and a half months is about my limit. That’s how long it took me to write the first draft Of Broken Things. Anything longer, and my attention starts wandering.

I had started editing the novel in April, but I took a couple breaks to finish writing a novelette as well. However, since about May, I have been doing nothing but editing. So I definitely need a change if I ever want to get to the end of this process without ending up hating my story with a passion.

Conclusions:

1. I am putting Of Broken Things away for a couple weeks at least and starting on a new short story, which will be a continuation of the short story A Small Detour published here. I already have the outline ready and printed, just need to sit down and put pen to paper. I think the freedom to just write whatever comes to mind and not worry about grammar or punctuation will be exactly the change of pace I need.

2. Sadly, I will have to withdraw from Camp NaNoWriMo this year, but I will definitely be there for NaNoWriMo in November! I even have a bright new shiny idea for the novel I want to write during that month. With characters and even a beginning of the plot as well! Can’t wait to start on that one, actually.

And finally a question for my fellow writers. Have you ever experienced this kind of burnout? What do you do to shake it off and get back on the writing horse again?

Of Broken Things – five things I’ve learned revising Part 1.

pen-and-paper

I have passed yet another milestone on my long journey as a writer. Last night I finished rewriting / editing Part 1 of my novel Of Broken Things. Yes, it took me the better part of three months, so some might consider that I’m moving at the speed of a tortoise. But it doesn’t matter to me, as long as I’m moving forward.

It’s interesting to look back and see just how far I’ve come on my journey. Last October, I wasn’t sure I had what it takes to write 50k words necessary to win NaNoWriMo, but I did. Then I was convinced that I would never be able to finish the first draft, but I did that as well.

And when I looked at the 300 pages brick that was my finished first draft, I was convinced that I would never be able to edit that. Heck, I had no idea how to even begin making it better…

Well, three months later, I am a third of the way through with the revision, and it’s not as bad as I thought. Yes, it’s long and painful and rather soul-draining at times, but I can really see my story getting better, so it’s all worth it in the end.

So now that I have some editing experience under my belt, it’s time to share with you a few essential things I’ve learned. Those tidbits of wisdom are, of course, personal, and might not reflect your writing experience, because hey, we are all different, and so is our writing process.

1. The first draft sucks.

My first draft was a hot mess. It doesn’t help that when I write my story down for the first time, I just go with the flow. I never re-read what I wrote the day before or look back to edit, I just charge on ahead. Sometimes I follow my (very loose) outline, sometimes I go on a tangent and get lost in the woods before I limp back on the long and sinuous road to The End. So the end result is full of typos and repetitions, ravings and plot holes big enough to swallow a semi. There is a good story buried somewhere in there, but you need to get out your mining gear and be willing to do some hard work in order to dig it out, clean it up and polish it till it shines.

Which brings me to the next tidbit of wisdom:

2. Editing the first draft = rewriting 90% of it.

Blue blood on the page!
Blue blood on the page!

I had noticed that when I edited my short stories. I had dreaded that when I started editing Of Broken Things, but I had hoped that it wouldn’t be the same. Sadly, it was. If you look at my printed copy, you would think that I bled all over the pages (that is if I my blood was blue), there is so much ink on them. I have moved scenes around, rewritten some of them from scratch, hacked and slashed and merged some of them together. Some pages might have maybe one or two untouched sentences, but most have none.

3. If you didn’t use an outline for the first draft, you better make one before you start editing.

Seeing how many things need to change during the editing process, having a detailed (preferably scene by scene outline) is essential. Starting a major revision without one is like going into the woods without a map or even a compass – you will most certainly get lost and probably do more harm than good. You have already finished this story, so you should know what it’s about (or I hope you do). So re-read it, outline it, mark the scenes that advance your story, those that need to be changed, and those that have no business being there at all. Take notes. They will really help you once it’s time to beat this baby into submission, ahem, start editing.

On a side note, it’s also good to keep a list of all the names and places, as well as a good timeline of your story. After all, you are working on filling in those plot holes, not creating new ones.

4. Save your original version before you start hacking and slashing.

ALWAYS save the original copy of your work before you make any changes. You never know what scene you might desperately need back two days after you happily threw it into the incinerator and pressed the Burn button.

And while you’re at it, save your progress regularly as well… in multiple places. That way if your power goes off expectantly, or your laptop shows you a blue screen of death and refuses to be revived, all that hard work is not lost forever.

5. Keep going.

Finish what you start!
Finish what you start!

It’s hard work. I had thought that writing the first draft was hard; well, it was a walk in the park compared to editing it. There are moments when I want to bash my head against the wall because I have I know a scene sucks but nothing I do makes it any better. It would be so easy to get discouraged and just give up. After all, you’ve done it already, right? You finished that story. You got to THE END once. Why not just leave it and write something new next?

Don’t give up. Leave that scene that makes you want to pull your hair out. Take notes on what doesn’t work and continue with another scene. You’d be surprised at the wealth of ideas you come up with when you come back to it the next day. Even if you’re not happy with something during the first revision pass, you can always change it during the next one. That’s the good thing about writing – nothing is set in stone until the book is published. Once you realize that, the whole process becomes very empowering.

So what do you guys think? What is your editing process? What problems have you encountered during your revisions? What lessons have you learned? I want to hear from you!

Of Broken Things – a #luckyseven snippet.

Lucky Seven.
Lucky Seven.

My friend Isabella Norse tagged me to play ‪#‎luckyseven‬, a bit of fun for writers.

The rules of the challenge are simple:

  • Go to either page 7 or 77 (or 777 if it’s that long) of your manuscript.
  • Go to line 7.
  • Post 7 sentences / lines.
  • Tag 7 other people to do the same.

My current WIP is a murder mystery set in a science-fiction world. It’s called Of Broken Things and here is a brief synopsis:

When Aiden accepts to investigate the murder of a college professor, little does he know that he will stumble into a cover-up operation involving a secret research lab, people with special abilities, and one soldier bound on revenge.

And here is a small snippet from page 7, line 7 of the current version of the novel:

***

“Alright, Marjory will see us at 2 pm, which leaves us a little bit over two hours to kill. Fancy eating something a bit more filling than coffee?”

Aiden nodded enthusiastically. When Ricky mentioned lunch, he became aware of just how hungry he was. He couldn’t even remember the last time he had had a decent meal.

“Excellent!” Ricky said. “Then let’s go to Illiano’s for old times’ sake.”

***

Pfew, here we go. First ever snippet from my work posted on this blog, or anywhere else for that matter, if you don’t count A Small Detour, the short story I was lucky to get accepted into this anthology.

Alright, now that I have done that. Here are 7 more writers I want to tag: Jayme, So I pondered, Peter, Dimyanti, Jenny, Denise, and Cat. You guys feel like playing along?

My short story “A Small Detour” has been published.

I have started my journey to become a writer during NaNoWriMo 2013. Can’t believe it’s already been seven months. During that time

1. I have finished the first draft of my novel Of Broken Things,

2. thought I had finished a short story called Mists of the Crossworlds, but it decided to become a novelette instead,

3. Finished the short story A Small Detour.

4. Started the first round of edits and rewrites on Of Broken Things.

5. Started brainstorming an idea for a new novel involving a vampire and a Tuata de Danan (don’t ask, I have no idea what’s going on there, I’m still busy torturing my characters and prying information out of them).

6. Had to get a big bucket for all the plot bunnies that started breading in my head at the speed of light.

7. Started submitting A Small Detour to different magazines.

Well, on May 24 I passed another important milestone on my writing journey. My short story had been accepted by Witty Bard Publishing LLC to be featured in their anthology Of Dragons and Magic: Tales of the Lost Worlds. Here is a beautiful picture of the cover:

Of Dragons and Magic

This is a big deal for me. I know it’s just a short story, but to me this is proof that what I do is worth something. That I’m not just spinning stories for myself and my immediate family, and that other people might find it interesting and worth their while. As of two days ago, I ceased to be a pre-published writer and became an author.

To pick your curiosity, here is a little synopsis of A Small Detour: When Ryssa’s horse gets stolen along with most of her possessions, she is forced to take a small detour. Little does she know that this detour had been the destination the Norns had intended for her all along.

It’s available on Amazon (see link above), so go check it out, spread the word. The other stories in the anthology are well worth your while as well.

Onwards towards new accomplishments!

Sometimes it’s not quite done when you think it’s done.

onceuponatime

 

I had an interesting experience the other day that I thought I’d share with my fellow writers (and readers). I had finished my second short story and sent it off to my beta extraordinaire. The feedback I got caught me by surprise.

“Loved the story,” she said. “That’s a very good first chapter. Where is the rest?”

“There is nothing more. The story is finished,” I answered.

“But it’s not! I want to know what happens next. This episode is over, yes, but the story itself isn’t finished.”

I didn’t try to argue with my beta because experience taught me that most of the time she was right anyway. Instead I went back to my story and thought long and hard about it. At first, I couldn’t see how I could continue it – in my mind, the story was finished. But something kept nagging at me for the next two days. I was neck deep in the revision of my novel, but my mind kept coming back to that short story, over and over again.

And Friday I finally had that ah-ha moment. You know, that moment when the scene you had been struggling with all of a sudden comes out seamlessly, or when you manage to fill in a particularly baffling plot hole? Yup, that moment. To me it was the realization that my beta had been right – there was more to my story than I thought at first. And I knew exactly where that story still had to go, and where it would end, for good this time. Now I just have to find the time to sit down and write it. So what I thought would be a short story turned out to be a novella instead.

It’s the first time this happened to me, but it’s true that I am just an apprentice, as far as writing goes. So I am wondering, did something similar ever happen to you? And if yes, how often?

I want to hear your stories. How often did you think that your story was done when in reality it wasn’t?