Monthly Archives: June 2015

Dragons of Wellsdeep – pages 6 & 7 edit

Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg6_Dawn BlairDragons of Wellsdeep_pg7_Dawn Blair


Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg6_edited_Dawn BlairDragons of Wellsdeep_pg7_edited_Dawn Blair

The drafts on top are the original manuscript pages as it has been written. On the bottom are my edit drafts with my handwritten comments.

There’s not a whole lot I can say here. There’s a lot of information being passed along as dialogue. It’s hard to say at this point how much will be kept and what will be cut because the reader does need to know a lot of this. It kind of explains the last few pages.

There’s also the obvious break which needs to be a chapter break since the next scene takes place some time later on a different planet entirely.

Go back through the page and read the proposed changes. How would you incorporate changes? What would you do? Do you see something I missed. Comment below. Then we can have fun and see how the page develops into the second draft together.

Don’t forget about my Patreon page. Let other writers in your online and offline circles know about this blog so they can come get the help they need too. Let’s make better stories!

Happy writing!

Revising your beginnings

You have your story written and you are ready to revise the beginning.

Beginnings are so important. I’m talking about true beginnings here — Chapter 1 beginnings. Sometimes the following that I talk about here does take place in a prologue, but there’s a thing about prologues that most writers fail to realize: a prologue is part of the story, but it is outside of the story. Chapter 1 shouldn’t start off where the prologue ends. If it does, it’s not a true prologue. Now, if you add an epilogue at the end, you have created what is known as a “frame.” Think of this as a frame that holds a painting. It helps to contain the painting within it’s borders and helps to hang the painting, but it’s not the painting itself. Oh, there are some artists that get fancy and and extend their painting onto the frame, but that’s the exact same kind of bleed that  you will have where your story blends into the prologue. So, for now, let’s pretend that your story doesn’t have a prologue but you just start it at the first chapter. There’s a lot to pay attention to and all of it is necessary. Fortunately, there is a kind of formula that will help.

It starts with knowing your hero’s journey. The very first part of your hero’s journey is to show the hero at home. This isn’t necessarily a “home” as in a location, but rather what your character is good at. The character is “at home” with who he or she is.

So what’s your character’s strength? What is the one thing that puts them in tune with the world? Where are they most comfortable?

That’s step one. Step two is what’s the action that’s taking place? Being good at something generally they are doing something. So what’s the middle of that action? What are they caught up in?

Step three is knowing how this scene will lead into the Call to Adventure.

Now realize that you have to do most of the first two steps within the first page or two.

At the start of The Three Books, Steigan is out in the forest looking for killers. I have had him using his tracking skills, but the reader doesn’t know that;  my character wouldn’t have thought about it (“Oh what a good tracker am I!”) so it became unimportant for the reader to know that. He has come across a woman dancing in the forest and he tries to puzzle out who she is. He is watching his movements and knows that he’s got one shot at this; if he fails, more people will die. It instantly shows that he’s a skilled warrior, smart, perceptive, and aware of his mission. This defines my character in a nutshell.

Let’s look at another example:

“What are we going to do now?” Nyree asked me as she laid her bundle of wildflowers atop the fresh grave mound.

The old woman had told us not to mourn her passing, but how could I not? She’d taken in two half-starved little waifs she’d found lost and scared in the forest. She’d explained about my magic, saying that it was wild having come on so strongly so late in my life. She’d helped me learned to hide it as she had her own. Now I’d lost a kindred spirit and Nyree was asking me what we were going to do now.

I knew the answer I wanted. I was perfectly happy here. I could live out the rest of my days in the old woman’s cabin, hiding from a world that wouldn’t accept me as she had done.

But Nyree… like many girls her age I’m sure, she’d become enamored with the romantic notions she’d been reading about in the many books the old woman had owned. Many days, the two of them had sat together and giggled while sharing passages. I’d been outside trying to repair the house and grounds, yet their laughter had reached me anyway. While the old woman taught me about my magic, she taught Nyree how to be a woman.

The old woman knew that one day we’d have to return.

I guess that Nyree had sacrificed many years for me to be here learning about my wild magic. She had wanted to be back with our people, I knew. So now, I guess it was time to return to our people for Nyree’s sake. It was her time to live.

I would be happy staying here.

This is actually a first draft of another story I have. This is actually chapter one though I do have a prologue which happens when these two characters are children — he essentially blows up his village, killing everyone there except for him and his sister. It’s entirely an accident because he can’t control his magic and actually this is the second time that has happened. Because of the large gap in time, I made it a prologue because the characters had wandered and found this old woman who took them in and trained his magic. There is a lot of telling in this piece, but we won’t even get into that here. Let’s just look at the formula.

Step 1: Is my character showing a strength? Honestly, no. He’s not even at home within himself. He’s mourning. Since the reader has no idea who he’s mourning other than by what is being told, there is no emotional connection for the reader. Because the prologue has him being so destructive as a young child, the reader will know he’s powerful magically, but they won’t know what he’s done with it the last few years. Is there any indicator here what his strength might be? His love for his sister, his magic if he has control of it now, being self-sufficient. Okay, so does any of that describe my character? Yes, all three. So, my hero at home would be a scene that incorporated those elements.

I want to think about Step 2 for a moment. I need to show my character adoring his sister while having control of his magic and being self-sufficient. What action would do that? Once I know the answer to that, I can give it a better beginning.

Let’s look at Step 3. The scene has to lead to the Call to Adventure. The old woman dying and the children (now teenagers) having to decide what to do next is a call to adventure. Because my character is so focused on giving his sister a new life, the death has become a catalyst. So, I really have to assess if my prologue is indeed a prologue or if that’s my hero at home. With what I’ve already written about the prologue, what do you think? Do you think my character is showing a strength, is he feeling at home? No. He’s not. He’s a kid who can’t control his power. He’s helpless to it. So I need a scene which will lend itself to a Call and show my character now being strong.

Let’s try this again:

A cold darkness wafted through the forest like a thick fog. I followed my sister, letting her choose the paths through the trees. We were out before sunrise. This would be a long day. Three orbs of light bobbed in the air just in front of Nyree and lit the trail ahead. She reached out to touch one with her finger. 

“It’ll bite you,” I warned her over her shoulder, even though she just laughed at my warning and poked at the white-yellow globe. With a thought, I transformed it into a tiny flying dragon which snapped at her fingers. She hid her fingers beneath her arms which she held closely to her body as the dragon chased her around in circles. 

“Come on,” she squealed. “I want to have enough dawn flowers picked.”

“You’ve carried two bundles back to the house already.”

She hugged herself tighter. The snap dragon swarmed around in a circle and retook orb form, then floated up like a bubble to join the others. “Only two. That’s so few.”

He wanted to remind her that the old woman no longer carried, that her energy had moved on from the physical shell of this world, but Nyree wasn’t ready to hear that yet. “You’ll have time,” he said softly. “I still have a grave to dig.”

“It’s going to get awfully quiet this evening with out her,” Nyree said. “What are we going to do now?”

While this isn’t the scene I’m likely to use when I finally get around to doing the rewrite, it works as an example. Now we show the character in control of his magic as well as having fun with his sister even though they both are mourning.

Let’s revisit the steps. Step 1: Does it show the character’s strength? Is he at home? Yes. He’s with his sister, making her laugh and that will endear him to the reader, especially when the reader discovers why they are out in the forest at night. He may not be comfortable in the scene, trying to keep his own emotions in check while his sister is about to cry (again). He knows he has more work to do before this day is done, but he cannot be whiny or weak about it. It’s his duty.

Step 2: Is it in the middle of the action? Yes. The old woman has died and they are preparing to bury her — those two actions are a start and an end of themselves. In the first scene, they had already buried her. The action was over. And yes, in rewriting the scene with these questions in mind has made me have that realization that I truly have now started it in the middle of the action.

Step 3: Does this lead to the Call to Adventure? No longer is the old woman’s death a call to adventure. I’m not sure yet because this clip is short, but my guess would be that a further call would come during the burial or shortly thereafter. We’ve lost all of the character’s thoughts about how his sister needs to be around people so she can live a “normal life.” So, there has to be something else that will come along and drive them out of their home. There will be another catalyst to act as the call, even if it is just the character thinking about how his sister needs a life, though that will probably have some sort of instigating factor which makes him think that way.

There you have it.

If nothing else, just remember to show your character being strong in the beginning. They have the rest of the book to be flawed and mess things up. You, however, only have those first few pages to get the reader on your side for this character and that means letting your character be confident.

Happy writing.

 

Dragons of Wellsdeep – Pages 4 & 5 edit

Bonus!

I don’t know about you, but this pace is agonizingly slow for me. So, I’m going to try posting two pages a week from here on out. I’m also trying to go back and rewrite some of the early pages so we can really get into the meat of editing since the beginning is so important to get readers into your story. I still have some work to do on this — second drafts are a bit harder; it’s like re-dreaming your dream. But I hope to have those pages ready to go in a couple of weeks and I’m thinking I might post those on Tuesdays.

If you enjoy this blog and want more, please help support it by visiting my page at Patreon. You can also find other ways to support by going to the Support this Blog page. Thank you!

Let me know if you like the new format of two pages for the Sunday post.

Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg4_Dawn BlairDragons of Wellsdeep_pg5_Dawn Blair


Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg4_edited_Dawn BlairDragons of Wellsdeep_pg5_edited_Dawn Blair

The drafts on top is the original draft as it has been written. On the bottom is my edit drafts with my handwritten comments.

You’ll notice that near the top of page 4, there is a gap in the text. This is my preferred way to indicate a change in point of view. It just gives a clean break for readers to visual pull from the story before jumping back in. There are other ways to change point of view within text without a break, but I personally don’t use them often. Of course, I do often chose to only have one point of view per book. Yes, one! One character’s point of view for a whole book. It’s practically unheard of these days unless the author is writing in first person, but often there are still other chapters written in someone else’s point of view. I didn’t come to my choice easily and it took me several years just to understand point of view in writing. Dragons of Wellsdeep might be my first story in some time that will include extra points of view, but it’ll only be in these beginning pages; I see the rest of the story in Moonhunter’s point of view. There was a moment in The Three Books when I was tempted to switch to an omnipotent point of view. It’s the moment when Martias takes one of the books. It’s outside of Steigan’s point of view; he doesn’t see Martias steal the journal. He learns later that Martias took it, but never when. I have the spot marked in my text for when I finally get around to drawing the graphic novel version. And, it is because I do plan on doing a graphic novel version of the book that made me really want to be in Steigan’s head for the novel. There’s a lot of his thoughts that a reader won’t know about if they only read the graphic novel version, but they’ll get the little things like Martias being a thief. One story, different camera angles.

You’ll notice that I made a change from “Dragon-Birthed” to “dragonborn.” I got to a point where I needed to change the tense of “birthed” to born and after that it just kind of stuck — it was a much better tense. So, this is me cleaning that up.

Again, throughout the draft, the text needs to be slowed down and described better. I should probably just stop mentioning this! :) It’s my natural tendency to write dialog and action, so I know I need to fill in the blanks — the “white room” as I call it. Really, think about where they are at. Do you see anything? Are the walls around them white? They are to me. I’ve called it a cave, but I have no real visual. As an author, you really need to freeze your characters so you can pop your own head up and have a look around to see if you are describing the surroundings. That I did this in the manuscripts is what makes Manifest the Magic and To Birth a Destiny much better books in my opinion than The Three Books; I remembered to look around and describe more. Of course, things were so normal to my character — he was use to seeing all this — that really he didn’t notice these things, so in some ways it worked for his character too. I sit on the fence and wonder if I was really showing the character of Steigan or if I was just being a lazy author in The Three Books. Maybe a bit of both. Either way, I do feel it’s written the way it was meant to be so I guess the point is moot.

I have a couple points where I’m telling the story rather than showing. One spot I’ve marked to put into dialog. I feel it will work better that way. The other, the earlier point, I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet, but I do have the mention of the weight going through his legs. If I’m firmly in his point of view by this point, I think it’ll work.

At the end, you’ll notice the asterisk and my note about fingernails. I suspect I know the point at which I’ll put in the fingernails even though I haven’t actually put it in the text yet and I hope to remember to mark it when I get there. Because I’m afraid of losing that is why I’ve put the note in here. Always make yourself lots of notes. It’s so easy to forget. Write it down before the idea gets lost.

Oh, and I am so tired of the phantom priest and priestess wailing! Aren’t you? They keep fading in and out and when they are on scene they are wailing. I so need to figure these characters (or actually the purpose of the priests and priestess out — which I’m getting closer to doing at the point where I’m currently writing). World creation — it’s so much fun, but very time consuming. Don’t worry. I will discuss world creation in another blog at some point. I will say that writers who say, “It’s like earth, but not earth,” have not worked it hard enough. Don’t be lazy. There is no world out there that will be “like earth.” It’s impossible. That planet has not had the people or the wars that have shaped our world. That planet will not have an orbit like earth’s with 365 1/4 days in a year and with 24 hours in a day. Constellations will be different. Did their early peoples understand or even seek to understand the basic science of their planet? They didn’t on Steigan’s world — they were too busy surviving. What was important to them were the three moons that rose over in their night sky and provided them with light to see the demon monsters coming after them. When the three moons rose at once, that was an event. One that they worshiped as the Tri-Lunar Ceremony and they did calculate out when this was going to happen. It was part of their survival. But calculating the stars, especially in a night sky ruled by three moons, wasn’t specifically important to them. Of course, the continent on the planet has a mild climate, so seasonal needs weren’t that important. On other continents of this planet, that might be a bit different (haven’t gotten to write/rewrite those stories too deeply yet). Anyway, like I said, “like earth” is a cheat so don’t use it.

Don’t forget about my Patreon page. Let other writers in your online and offline circles know about this blog so they can come get the help they need too. Let’s make better stories!

Go back through the page and read the proposed changes. How would you incorporate changes? What would you do? Do you see something I missed. Comment below. Then we can have fun and see how the page develops into the second draft together.

Plotting your character’s challenges

“I’m plotting against you.”

On Facebook, a friend of mine shared an image of those words. I feel it’s so appropriate to lead in with this because as a writer you need to always be plotting against the main characters.

Yes, always.

I understand it’s hard when you love your main characters so much. They are a part of you and there’s a desire within yourself to be this character. If there isn’t, then why are you writing about this character?

But you always have to ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that could happen to my character at this point?” Even as you’re going back through editing your manuscript, you need to ask this question: is it the absolute worst thing that could happen? If your answer is no, then you need to push it harder.

This is when you get to the real meat of the story.

Don’t plan out how your character gets out of the position you push them into. Let them figure it out. This is when your character surprises you and thinks of the one thing you never saw coming. These are the moments when you laugh out loud because they are hitting you in the face with your own pie. This is when you will love your character more than you thought possible.

Then you throw them back down into the pit lined with fiery coals again.

Don’t just let your main character win. Make them fight to win.

Dragons of Wellsdeep – Page 3 edit

Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg3_Dawn Blair


Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg3_edited_Dawn Blair

 

The draft on top is the original draft as it has been written. On the bottom is my edit draft with my handwritten comments.

This page is is another one that needs a lot more description as well as to be locked in a point of view. We’ve lost the priest and priestess on this page too. There needs to be more of a struggle from the dragon here as well. These are the last moments of her life and she’s got to perform the magic. In writing as far as I have now, I know exactly what the dragons mean to the character I want to carry the point of view during this scene, so when I rewrite I’ll be adding much more angst to him. One thing I did mark in this that I still need to puzzle out is how my character feels about getting this new dragonborn to train. I’m sure he wasn’t expecting this, but I don’t know why he’s here. There’s some of his backstory I need to fill in. Working on a developing plot is much like figuring out a puzzle. Or rather it’s like working on several puzzles where the pieces have been all mixed together and there might be some missing. A lot of times I get an idea or an image in my mind of what I want to happen, but it’s not right for the story and I have to throw it out — it can easily be a piece to another story. Other times, I have to massage a piece until it fits just right (okay, so that doesn’t exactly work with the puzzle analogy, but since this is a puzzle in your mind anyway and not a real puzzle, shaving off a few corners to round the piece out or gluing shavings back on works).

I mention magic here. Yes, I want this to be more magical. I love writing magic. I will tell you now that I see this world connecting with the world in my Sacred Knight series. It is two separate stories and my characters will never meet, but I know that both are earth-based universes. The more I write and plot out books, the more I see how they all connect. Yes, even The Loki Adventures connects to the Sacred Knight universe — the first connect was in For A Good Time, Call Loki (the third novella of the five part kickoff series) and I have another story line planned out in which Loki will meet Freygorio — that one’s going to be a little different to write! So why do authors start to round books into the same worlds like this? It’s because we have characters we love and themes we enjoy writing about. For me, my themes are about noble hearts and fantastic places, good triumphing over evil, and fortune favoring the brave. Courage, magic, and ancient history fascinate me, but I’m more interested in twisting reality than recording things as they actually happen(ed). It’s why I could never be a journalist or an archaeologist, both careers which I explored before I realized that I was more into fantasy than non-fiction. So, I work on the mind puzzles I’m given and solve these plots with the intent of giving a good story to my readers.

So, I must work harder as you can see from my edits on the last few pages. The story must go deeper. At this stage, that’s a good thing. Onward!

Go back through the page and read the proposed changes. How would you incorporate changes? What would you do? Do you see something I missed. Comment below. Then we can have fun and see how the page develops into the second draft together.

What secret lurks in that brain of yours?

I have a simple question for you: What’s your character’s deepest, darkest secret?

Everyone has one thing that they don’t want the world to know. Everyone. Take just a moment to think about your deep, dark secret. What’s the one thing you feel so much regret and disappointment with yourself over? What would you not want your parents or your children to find out about? How far would you go to keep your secret from them?

There is a secret that lurks in your characters’ mind too. What does your character not want the world to know about? How well do they keep that secret?

This is a key to finding motivation for your characters and everyone in the cast should have one.

It’s an interesting exercise to do and you never know how much more you can deepen your story. For example, when I was working on The Three Books, I asked what Holy Sapere Adonid’s deep, dark secret was — what was he afraid of his followers and the council finding out? Here was this man who was like a Greek god in my mind (I modified his name right from Adonis, who was a handsome, fertility god) with long blond hair to die for and supreme power in the land. I’ve always seen this character in white and gold robes for innocence and sunlight. What could he possibly have ever done wrong? When I figured it out, I knew what had caused the split in the friendship between Adonid, Greytas, and Arlyn. I knew exactly what had happened (and unfortunately I can’t say now because it’s revealed in the fourth book, though not by Adonid because he would never confess his shame, but that doesn’t stop Arlyn from filling in Steigan with the truth). I also learned what Greytas’ deep, dark secret was because of finding out about Adonid’s secret. Arlyn was a bit more of a chore to find out his secret, but I now know his. Whereas Adonid and Greytas have their secrets stemming from events when they were adults, Arlyn’s comes from when he was a child.

When a character fears having that secret revealed, they will go to almost any length to keep it under wraps.

Another fun exercise with this is to go somewhere populated, like a park, mall, or even the grocery store, and watch people. As yourself what deep, dark secret that little old lady squeezing every loaf of bread has. Or the Hispanic man who is on the phone and checking his watch. See the blond girls there giggling close together as they walk along? Are they in on each other’s secret? What would it take for one of them to reveal her friend’s secret to a rival? Or a boy she liked because she wanted to impress him? Oh, this can be fun.

There’s a good chance that you’ll never reveal this secret to your readers — not all of them become important to the story. In the life of Saint Steigan, there’s a period of about 30 cycles which he never EVER talks about, not even to me. I had to go to Annae to fill in the blanks for me and even she wasn’t privy to Steigan’s innermost thoughts. I know Saint Steigan’s deep, dark secret happens in this time. I just know it. I suspect I know what it is, but he’s very good at keeping me from touching upon it. I know that Dominus Steigan’s deep, dark secret was being kissed in the alleyway by the baker’s daughter. He was not prepared for that and hopes every day that he was so awful at it that she has never told anyone about it. He also never let himself be put in a compromising position like that again. Yes, a deep, dark secret can be something as innocent as that — a stolen kiss. For a character whose long-term goal of having a family seems like an unrealistic pipe-dream (so much so that he refuses to admit having this goal even to himself), an intimate moment like this is not something he wants the world to know about.

Now, what deep dark secret is your villain hiding? As I said in The Write Edit, “It takes years to develop the human personality. Why would you spend only a few minutes creating the villain who takes on your main character?”

Dragons of Wellsdeep – Page 2 edit

Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg2_Dawn Blair Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg2_edited_Dawn Blair

The draft on top is the original draft as it has been written. On the bottom is my edit draft with my handwritten comments.

One thing I want you to notice here is the questions: is this how long it will take to defeat them or how long they have to solve the situation? How is the dragon taking this? Is he moving? All those questions are designed to make me think, to push the story harder. I know that when I write down the questions, I’m letting the question into my brain to roll around. I don’t feel pressured to have an answer now. It’s merely a box I’m throwing into the room of my mind and closing the door on. When I come back later for the box, I trust that a lot of things will come out of it. I’ll then have to sort through the good, the bad, and the ugly. (grin!) You’ll be noticing a lot more of these questions in the pages to come.

Again, the page needs more details to help slow down the pace. I’ve become very aware of this as a natural tendency I have in my writing. I jump right into the story, so I’ve very conscious of it when I’m editing that I’m probably moving my story too fast. I see this in a lot of other manuscripts as well. But in writing the draft, I allow myself to write the dialog and action as it’s coming, knowing that I’ll have to slow the pace down later. Again, in writing the manuscript, it’s more important that I get the story out rather than it being perfect. You’ll see my comments of “slower,” “more,” “details,” in the pages coming.

Now, I did say that I would touch on point of view when I got to this page. Look at the 3rd paragraph where I have the comment, “This would be so much better in his pov.” We’re moving into action and there’s a lot of people moving around, namely the priest and this other man. It’s getting confusing as to who exactly is doing the action and how the response is coming. The priest and priestess are protecting the dragon from this man, but why? What’s going on in the man’s head? What’s he planning on doing and why? Do you see how much deeper we can go into the story just from these questions?

Okay, so if we stayed in the omnipotent point of view, we could go into all the character’s heads, but the reader will quickly get overwhelmed. Let me illustrate:

The priestess jumped to her feet and blocked the man entering the cave. She couldn’t let him near the dragon. She knew he would do whatever it took to insure the safety of the dragonborn, even if it meant harming the dragon. It went against her oaths as a priestess. “You can’t. She’s a Ch’bauldi and you are charged with protecting her.”

The priest moved up behind the priestess, standing as second ready to defend her if this gruff looking man dared to battle a woman. He didn’t want to do it, didn’t figure the man would strike a woman, but these days one could never be too certain. He just wasn’t sure that he wanted to stand against this dragonborn either. He had no weapon in which to defend himself, or the priestess if it came to blows.

The man looked them over, grimacing as he gave a little shake of his head. Who did they think they were to stand between him and the dragon mother? They could offer her no protection which her own tail, which she could easily swat him with if she really didn’t want him getting close, not to mention her claws and teeth. A dragon or a dragon weapon were the only things that could hurt him and the priest and priestess knew this. He was indestructible compared to them. “You have 30 seconds to help the dragon and her dragonborn or I will take care of the situation.”

Neither the priest or priestess moved, both frozen in fear. The man assessed them again. They carried no weapons. How would they be able to help? They all knew the priest and priestess couldn’t do a damn thing. It would have to be his knife to do the job.

So that might be a little extreme, but we’ve all seen passages just like that in today’s books. I’ve made it easy here where every paragraph is a jump to a new head: first the priestess, then the priest, then the man, then all of the above.

Putting the scene in one person’s point of view keeps the scene from getting confusing. The reader doesn’t have to work hard to remember whose head to be in. It also reads smoothly, allowing for action/reaction flows. I will discuss this in more depth later because it will need more time that I have here. But what I will do is a quick rewrite of the scene just in the man’s point of view. Oh, by the way, I didn’t know it when I was writing this scene originally, but the man’s name is Balthier, so I’m changing it because unless he has amnesia, he will know his own name.

The priestess jumped to her feet and tried to block Balthier from entering the cave. “You can’t. She’s a Ch’bauldi and you are charged with protecting her.”

The priest moved behind the priestess, standing as second ready to defend her. Balthier looked the scrawny man over. The priest had no weapon in which to defend himself, or the priestess if it came to blows, and Balthier suspected it would. They posed no real threat, especially to a dragonborn. “You have 30 seconds to help the dragon and her dragonborn or I will take care of the situation.”

Neither the priest or priestess moved. Balthier’s dagger would have to do the job.

Overall, it’s shorter and more concise, though not perfect. I wanted to add in what Balthier knew about the priest’s and priestess’ vows to protect the dragon, but it felt like I needed more of a build earlier for that, so I left it out.

I harp on point of view so I’m sure I’ll discuss it more often. To want to be in every character’s head all at once so that the writer can tell the reader what they are all thinking is lazy writing. There’s body language, there’s dialog, there’s narration — all those are better clues to how a character is. So, in the first example, you know what a wimp the priest is by his own thoughts, whereas in the second example it’s being filtered through Balthier’s perspective of “standing as a second ready to defend” and “suspected it would” (come to blows) that make the priest and priestess more of a threat to him. Because of this, there’s more tension in the second one. The priestess “tries” to block Balthier’s path; he knows she’s no match for him, but we see her ready to defend and that makes her a stronger character too.  The first example is full of “telling a story” with “It went against her oaths as a priestess” and “He didn’t want to do it, didn’t figure the man would strike a woman, but these days one could never be too certain. He just wasn’t sure that he wanted to stand against this dragonborn either.” The second example has some “telling” still, but does “show” the story more because we have Balthier’s perception of what they are doing, whether they are really feeling the bravo they are showing or not. There’s also more going on between these characters than is being put on the page — they each seem to know something that the reader doesn’t, not yet at least. This is a good way to hook the reader into reading more because they want to know. However, be very careful about doing this technique when you’re writing in 1st person — more on that later.

I also want to point out my note on the left hand side: “Smells.” The sense of smell is one that is often overlooked, unless it’s blood and how many times have you seen blood described as: “the coppery scent of blood filled the air.” Even I’m guilty of this one. It’s always good to have a reminder about smell.

Go back through the page and read the proposed changes. How would you incorporate changes? What would you do? Do you see something I missed. Comment below. Then we can have fun and see how the page develops into the second draft together.

Good night, right brain. Good morning, left brain.

You’ve finished your manuscript. Congratulations. I hope you gave yourself a break, at least a day, and treated yourself to something (sleep?).

Seriously, do give yourself a reward. You deserve it. Really! You’ve done what a lot of people only dream about.

After that treat — be it a chocolate sundae (my favorite), a new shirt, a nap (also a favorite), a walk around the mall, a new book, half an hour of uninterrupted tv watching, or whatever — then it will be time to get down to the real work. You should wait until the next day to begin editing at least so that you have time to detach from the work.

The point is that you need a break to calm the active imagination portion of your brain so that you can think logically and make sure your book is lined out well — that’s the left brain’s job.

Hopefully you’ve made a list of notes of things that need to be fixed in the story. If so, it’s a good idea to review those now. If this is your first book or even second, I highly recommend going back and writing a one – two page synopsis of your story. For those of you who don’t know what a synopsis is, it’s a summary of your story which tells a publisher what’s going to happen in the book. For our purposes though, a publisher will never see this version. It doesn’t matter if your copy is single or double spaced. Reveal all the details. This is meant for your eyes only. This is your road map for editing.

Don’t force yourself to try to remember everything in the story. Skim through the manuscript to see what happens. That way you can see if it has a beginning, middle, and end. If it ends up being a series of events rather than a character’s struggle to reach a goal, you have a problem. It means the plot of your story isn’t mature enough yet and you need to rethink what danger your character is facing and why it matters to your character.

There’s an excellent book by James Frey called The Key. He takes the heroic structure of story based on Joseph Campbell’s work and sets it into an easy to understand format. You can follow him along as he sets up a story using the hero’s journey.

I’m sure I said before that I don’t plot out my books using an outline. I do however use the hero’s journey to give my story structure. This usually happens when I’m writing the story. If I trust the process, I will come to a point at which I want to understand the direction I’m going. I have a sheet worked up with the hero’s journey lined out on it. I’ve attached a PDF of the file I use — you’ll probably want to create your own in your word processing program so you can easily edit it — just always to remember to save it with a different file name so you don’t overwrite your master file (not that it’s hard to recreate).

I know a lot of people who recommend putting the manuscript away for at least three months and working on a new manuscript during this time. I’ve never been someone who can do that. Even if you do decide to put the story aside for a while, you should at least write the synopsis before you do.

Keep working at this until your synopsis confirms that your story is strong.

Happy writing!