Looking for 2 beta readers for a short story

I’ve got a short story that’s in the final draft stage before submission.  The deadline is the end of the month.  My crit group have already picked over it, but I’m looking for fresh eyes.

It’s science fiction, but not overly technical. It’s mostly a character story.

If you can spare the time for a read and review, I will certainly return the favour for a short story or novel chapter you need feedback on.

Drop me a line at m dot faber at iinet dot net dot au if you can help.

Thanks!

 

Project 2012: It’s June

Somewhere near Esk in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.

I’m a pretty organised person.  I like to plan things out so I know exactly what I’m doing when.  I’ve got a full time job, a child and an addiction to Diablo 3.  There is no such thing as spare time.

I planned out this year from January to December with the ultimate goal of submitting my first novel in January 2013 while also completing the first draft of a new novel.

How’s it going, I hear you ask?

Well, you might as well say I planned to drive to Melbourne and ended up in Darwin.

Okay, so it’s not that bad.  But the original road map has flown out the window.  The novel I wanted to work on turned out to be not strong enough to be worth it.  So I put that away and decided to work a completed novella up to submission status.  That, I’m pleased to say, is coming along well.  I’m 3/4 of the way through the second pass.

In the meantime, I finished an 8k short that had been languishing on my heard drive for 5 years.  I completed a 10k short that I want to submit to Extreme Planets anthology.  I’m 3.5k into a novella for Crossed Genre’s Winter Well anthology.

I can’t help it, I just love short stories.

But while I’ve been doing this, I have also been thinking about my next novel draft, and I have one in my sights.  Writing starts 1st July.

So while I’m nowhere near where I planned to be, I’m not upset.  I’ve revised my plan and kept moving forward.  I’ve been writing and revising the whole time (except for 2 weeks where I angsted over some words that were really giving me trouble).

I could have thrown my hands in the air and given up.  I could have let the failure of that first novel send me into a spiral of writer’s block.

But I have learned three important things from writing and selling short stories.

  1. Not every story will work, no matter what you do to it.
  2. New ideas will always come along, demanding to be written.
  3. If you keep writing and learning and improving, you will sell stories.

I am not at all upset that this year didn’t fit in with my big plan.  Because I still have that big plan.  The end date has just blown out a little.  And in the meantime I have explored new stories and learned more about the craft of writing and revision.

Never let a wrong turn make you miserable.  You never know what you might see along the way.  Just keep driving.

Your turn: how has the first half of the year gone for you?  Have you lost your way?  Are you still driving?

Cutting hurts

We are cutting down trees today.

My heart is hammering and I feel sick.

I love trees, but unfortunately the person who planted these trees didn’t think before they planted.  One is under the powerlines.  One hovers over the power and phone lines into the house.  One is right up against a window.

So they have to go.  But I hate doing it.  I hate destroying something so beautiful.

I console myself with the thought that as soon as they are gone I will plant more, in the right place this time. Trees carefully chosen for height and shape and location.  Trees that will glow with beauty, attract birds and bees, form a shelter for fauna and privacy for us.

I console myself with this and try not to cry while the trees come down.

Okay, so maybe I cried a bit.

But they had to come down.  Sometimes you make hard decisions, and then you grieve, and then you pick yourself up and move forward.

In life, and in writing.

Christopher Ruz talks about his revision process

I’ve known Chris for quite some years now – I think we met when we were both looking for critique partners.  Chris has been writing Century of Sand for years, so when he finally put it up for publication, I thought it would be good to hear from Chris about how the revision process works for him.

***

When Merrilee asked me to write an article about my editing process, I didn’t think I’d get caught up in a month-long struggle with my own wordiness. You see, I’m a pretty brutal editor. I cut a lot. I’m not happy unless I’m cutting to the bone. As a result, my projects take a stupidly long time to finish. I’m my own worst enemy. But I can, at the very least, explain how I spent three years bringing my latest novel Century of Sand from a flabby, unfocused first draft to a finished product.

Century of Sand is a fantasy novel about a father and daughter – Richard and Ana – running away from their homeland, trying to escape from a vicious and bloody-minded Magician. It differs from many fantasy works in that the hero is not young, dashing and chosen by prophecy – he’s old, bitter, and full of doubt at the decisions that led to his escape. Ana is a warrior with the mind of an infant, trained to kill but not to speak. The landscape they’re crossing is not traditional European woodland, with tall grey castles and knights riding lovely white horses. It’s an unending desert, harsh and bright and bone-dry, where local warlords battle over water and demons walk around in stolen skins.

But when I began writing Century of Sand back in 2008, I didn’t even have that previous paragraph to work from. All I had was a premise – a demon living in a termite mound in the centre of a vast desert – and a single character – Richard, an old man fleeing from the Magician-turned-King. As such, I didn’t really know how to construct the novel. I had no plan and basis of comparison. All I could do was jump in at the deep end and hope something worked out along the way.

I operate in two very distinct modes: writing and editing. I can’t write and then edit a project in the same day, or even the same month. The processes require different areas of my brain, and it takes a long time to switch gears. So instead of sitting down and carefully plotting my way through, I wrote blindly, without consideration for character development or narrative structure. The result was a mess that Merrilee probably remembers as nigh-unreadable. I put the draft away in a drawer for six months, came back and read it as if I were reading somebody else’s story. Then, I began to plan.

My revision plan was constructed around what I personally feel most important in a story. For me, characters are always number one. With the rough draft in place, I could see the approximate arcs that my characters were supposed to take on their personal journeys, so I mapped out each arc and the changes that each character would need to undergo throughout the story. With those in place, I found the locations and events scattered throughout the Century of Sand trilogy that would best serve those evolutions in character. I twisted the plot where it needed to be twisted in order for these character revelations to fit – for me, plot is always secondary to a good character arc. Then, once I had the story mapped out in terms of character developments and interactions, I start cutting.

What parts of the plot didn’t serve the characters? They got chopped. What parts existed only for filler? Chop. I went through the story line by line and cut everything that wasn’t necessary, and I left myself notes to indicate all the things I needed to put in their place – meaty things, things with weight, things with tangibility. Authorial intrusion got chopped. Infodumps got chopped. I found ways to replace them with action, with collision and conflict. I located passive moments and beat my head against a wall until I discovered a way to make them life-or-death situations.

Then, with my character arcs in place and my story honed to a fine edge, I thought about the world.

I’m not good at worldbuilding. It’s the part of fantasy I hate the most, because it so often leads to extended chapters discussing trade routes and the history of meaningless cities. My perfect form of worldbuilding is one where info is only revealed in a way that furthers the plot, or the development of a character.

But to find those good moments, you have to cut away from a big messy whole. So, with my entire trilogy already drafted, I drew a map for the first time and figured out exactly where my characters were headed. I filled in the gaps, all the places they didn’t visit, and I thought about how those places, their religions, their histories and tribal disputes, could have influenced my characters in the past. Only one of my main characters, the Kabbah – a local warlord drawn into the adventure by a need to pay a blood debt – has any real knowledge of the world through which they’re travelling, so he is the lens through which my other characters, Richard and Ana, see the desert. The way in which the Kabbah talks about the desert gods, the rock formations, the wars over territory, inform the reader of his character as much as they inform Richard and Ana about the landscape. By making him my walking encyclopaedia, I can worldbuild but also build his personality simultaneously.

So, my three main editing steps – character, plot, and world – were complete. What was left?

I put the draft away in a drawer for six months. I let it get mouldy. I took it out. I started again.

After four complete rounds of rewriting, hating my manuscript, hating myself, cutting, rewriting, having epiphanies, cutting again, crying, and rewriting again, I finished Century of Sand. It took four years, almost to the day – March 2008 to late February 2012. I knew I was done when I took the manuscript out of the drawer in December 2011, reread it, and found myself enjoying every word. It felt like somebody else’s book, and it was exciting from beginning to end. Instead of thinking, “I need to rip this apart and start from scratch,” I thought, “A bit of a proofread and this is ready to go.”

That actual process of uploading and self-publishing Century of Sand should have been terrifying. Instead, as I clicked UPLOAD on the Kindle website, I was calm. I knew that my novel was the best it could be, the best I could make it. I trusted my process. It worked.

All I had left to do was books two and three.

***

There’s more about Chris on his website, and you can find Century of Sand and more of Chris’s works on Amazon.

Whoops…distracted

I’ve been doing…stuff.  Writing is some of that stuff.  I got distracted, sorry.  But hey!  Here’s a snippet from the current WIP to amuse you.

Liz choked back a giggle, feeling oddly unbalanced. Here she was, standing next to a dingo in human form and talking about using cigarette smoke to protect herself from flying snakes while a dead man crawled around inside her head.

Real posts soon.  Possibly. Maybe when this goddamn second draft is done.

Pub Rants: Creating An Editorial Road Map

Even the pros do it:

Via the outline, I can clearly point out what works, what doesn’t work, where it should build tension or escalate the stakes, what could be deleted to tightened or even if the story has gone off the rails completely.

Pub Rants: Creating An Editorial Road Map.

On writing the first draft | Malinda Lo

Most recently, as I was writing the first draft of the sequel to Adaptation, I kept thinking about revision as this kind of shining oasis waiting for me in the future. All I had to do to get there was lay down this track of rough draft. It could have bad sentences and plot holes all over the place. It didn’t matter as long as I laid it down, because I knew that once I had those first draft words, then and only then would I have something to work with.

via On writing the first draft | Malinda Lo.

Project 2012: an example of revision in action

If you’re having trouble getting to grips with Draft #2, or if you’re curious to see how other people revise, hop over and have a look at Kerryn’s disgustingly organised revision.

It was incredibly refreshing to start the outline of Draft II from scratch. I could follow the flow of the story where it was strongest without the terrible feeling that I was deleting thousands of words or even one scene from the first draft. The whole structure and text from the first draft is still there in Scrivener under the Draft folder. The reference in my spread sheet was enough that I could zoom in to the scene level when I needed to while still allowing me the freedom of restricting the novel as it needed. And so Draft II was born with 40 scenes.

I’m in awe.  My revisions, while following the same process, never look this neat.  Nice work, Kerryn!

Project 2012: End of Quarter 1

Well, here we are at the end of the first quarter.  It’s only been 3 months but it feels like a lifetime.

This quarter was all  the big picture.

  • Hook versus climax
  • Plot arc
  • Character arcs
  • Mapping tension
  • Voice, tone and language

By now you should have completed the read-through of the revision project to develop and understanding of the weak and strong points of your story.  You should have re-plotted where you need to, to bring the loose first draft into a coherent story.  You should have scrutinized your characters’ journeys to make sure that they get where they are going, and that you only have as many characters as your need.  You should have examined your plot for the up and down beats that develop tension, and made sure the tension rises from the beginning to the middle to the end.  You should have firmed up the voice of your work so you can be consistent all the way through.

For your first draft project, you should have either a developed plot to write, or be well into the draft if you are a pantser.

My personal journey through this first quarter was full of ups and downs.  After the initial read-through of the revision project, I scrapped the lot and started again.  It took me another 40,000 words of writing the second draft before I realised this story was never going to be what I needed it to be.  So I put it to bed.

In the meantime I started revising another project and plotting for 2 more.  So while I am behind on the first draft project, I am up to speed on the second revision project.

April 1st brings us into quarter 2.

Second quarter is all about the chapters, zooming in to make sure that each section of your book develops the story, advances the plot and illustrates character development.   You’ll be looking at flow and movement and making sure each chapter strengthens the work and moves the story forward. For each chapter you’ll be looking at:

  • Hook to climax – chapter
  • Rising tension
  • Character development

Now that you have your big picture and your story and character arcs, you need to start looking at chapters (or scenes) and making sure that each one strengthens your story as a whole.  You should have already discarded the weak scenes in quarter 1.  Look at each chapter and the events, and how they contribute to the story as a whole.  You will be writing a lot of new words in this quarter as you manipulate your scenes and chapters to bring them into line with your overall plan.  But remember, don’t worry too much about the prose at this stage, because it can still change.  We’re still looking at the big picture, we’ve just zoomed in a degree.

See the whole program outline for Project 2012.

In the comments (or on your blog) let us know how you are going, and how you feel about tackling the next stage.