All posts by Dawn Blair

Enter the Novihomidraks!

I currently released a short story in electronic and audio formats. It’s called Fractured Echo.

fractured-echo-cover-72-dpi-web

I wrote Fractured Echo entirely in the dark, as Dean Wesley Smith talks about. I tried his looping technique. Honestly, I still went back through and had to do a re-read of the entire thing. I “edit” like I normally do; by this I mean that I fix things that don’t make sense to me or are weird. There are just some sentences that I can feel aren’t complete. I make them deeper. I’m sure Dean does this in his loops, which I was also doing, but I still felt like I needed that one final time to make sure everything tied together. I have accepted that this final read is just part of my process (for now at least – three years from now, maybe I won’t need to do it anymore).

It took a few days to write and finalize this story. While working on it, it was hard to not become invested in the characters. While I was talking to my youngest son about it one day, I mentioned that I felt I wasn’t done with these characters, and that I had more stories to tell with them. He just grinned at me and said, “Of course.” Maybe that’s why the ending feels so abrupt to me. I will warn you know, the outside influences of the story don’t get finished – they are still going on. Okay, some of the internal issues aren’t fully resolved either, but I get Echo to a place she needs to be. The story told me to end it there. Literally, it screamed at me not to go on. So I didn’t. It leaves it hanging, as I’ve found most short stories do. But, I feel that at some point I will be back with these characters. They might just be minor characters in another story, but I love the aspects and possibilities these characters bring with them. It’s just too good to pass up.

I should also mention that this is a formal introduction to my novihomidraks, which anyone reading this blog will be partially familiar with. Novihomidraks are officially what I’m calling my “dragon born” in my Dragons of Wellsdeep story. Those of you who have been reading my Sacred Knight series will also notice the crossover of the saperes (a word meaning “wise ones”). While the saperes outside of the Sacred Knight world are different from those in the world, I will eventually tie the two together so it explains the development of the sapere class in Sacred Knight. Confused? Yeah, sorry. I was too (and still am a little bit), but I trust the process. It knows better than me what to do. I trust and follow. I allow myself to be blindfolded and lead the through dark when I’m writing. For me, that’s the adventure of storytelling; I want to be surprised too.

I should also mention that this is not for children. Like my Loki series, this is more adult, probably even more so than The Loki Adventures even. So just be warned if you have kids around that this does have mild language and sexual content. I have made the decision to market all my work under one name because I enjoy writing for kids, teens, and adults, as well as merging teens and adults when I can as in my Sacred Knight series, and in doing so, I will be trying to make sure that my work always in the right hands. There’s a lot of things I can do to target which audience a work is for (such as being open and honest in posts like this), but at some point I have to trust readers to take responsibility too.

I invite you to check out Fractured Echo – available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and other formats, You can also find it on iTunes and Audible.

Writing an Adventure For Yourself

I was going on a point in my last Thursday’s blog that I have never been afraid to throw out several chapters of a story that wasn’t working when I got sidetracked by another thought and went with it instead, but I wanted to come back to that.

I know Dean Wesley Smith would bite his tongue while thinking that I was a stupid writer if he heard me say that. He’d fix forward and not waste the words he’d written. Time is words written, and that is product being produced, which is something he can ship out the door. He’s not wrong. He’d tell me not to let my story be a “special snowflake,” to get it done and move on to the next story. He’s still not wrong.

I have been pondering this philosophy of mine and questioning if I am right or not, especially in seeing the publishing industry and its process in a new light. I looked at my goals and did the math on them to see how long it would take me to reach them (90 years at that time, 9 years if I committed myself now – both of those are scary numbers) and realized that I had to do something to speed up my process. Neither of those times were acceptable to me. I knew I’d have to break my thinking.

Where does trusting the artistic process meet the road of being a producing artist?

It feels like a fine line. One I’m having to rethink as I walk it.

Smith has this process he calls “looping.” He writes until he runs out of steam, then he loops back several chapters and takes another run at it. He fills in any holes that he might have created along the way. Once he reaches the end of the previous writing session, he keeps moving forward until he again runs out of steam. Then he repeats, maybe not going back as far as he did previously to start again. My own process is generally not too different, except that I may on occasion have to throw a whole section out because it’s just not right. I wish I could always know exactly what to write. Maybe he’d say that I’m only throwing things out because I let the critical voice tell my author voice that I’m doing it wrong. But if that were the case, then why do I feel better when I’ve moved forward in another direction. Usually, though not always, I do feel like throwing it out to go down another path was the correct choice.

Alas, maybe this isn’t something I’ll discover the answer to without writing another 10,000 words while pondering this question and experimenting while examining my own process. I’m sure I won’t figure it out after having just written one blog post about it. It’s definitely part of the journey. As my character, Ellis, would say, “What’s life without a little adventure sometimes?”

Rewriting a Life

I’ve been following Dean Wesley Smith lately. I swear he’s the writer that I always imagined I would become. In seeing what he’s done, I find myself getting angry with myself (after a taste of jealousy) at having gotten off track. Where did I go so wrong?

Okay, I do know the answer to that. I let my dreams get derailed by a desire for a “normal” life as a wife and a mother. That put me in a bad situation, one where I had to enjoy the rat race while continuing my dreams on the sidelines. I just wish now that I could’ve pushed myself harder than I have over the last 20 year. I’ve been moseying. I haven’t been playing for keeps. Some of that time, I truly feel that the situation couldn’t be helped. I had life issues working against me. But, I still could have been doing more. I wasn’t fully committed. I was scared.

Now I’m more scared.

I realize after watching several of Dean’s videos and reading his books, I have to get my life back on track. I’m not a brilliant writer by any means, but I have stories inside me I want to tell and I am 20 years shorter on being able to get them all out. That’s scary.

It just means that I have to be more focused and productive. I have to write more. I have to be a better writer to make a cleaner draft. Yes, that means doing the work upfront, not afterward. A light edit, not a complete rewrite. I’ve never had any issues before of writing something then throwing it all out to completely rewrite it because the sequence of scenes wasn’t right or I got a better idea. I’ve always trusted the process and if my gut tells me something is wrong I throw it out and go back to when it last felt right and started again. You know, my life hasn’t felt right for some time but I hadn’t wanted to trust the process of life like I do the process of writing. But now I realize how vitally important that is. It’s scary to let go of something that you know. In a Les Brown speech I was recently listening to, he says that “known hells are preferable to strange heavens.” He’s so very right. Now comes the time when I have to throw out several years of my life to get it back on track. I have to commit to something new or I’m going to keep facing the same life I have now. I don’t like this draft I’m writing. I have to break my thinking. I have to go back to where it last felt right and start again.

Scary.

I know that I don’t have to throw out all the scenes I’ve written, just the ones that aren’t working. It’s going to take commitment to fill in the gaps, but I’m ready. I can see how the Universe has positioned me for this when I thought I was struggling through hard times and looking for answers. I am exactly where I need to be. I’ve found exactly what I needed to find. Learned exactly what I needed to find. Manifested in my life exactly what I needed to have for moving forward. I’m ready.

Thanks to Dean Wesley Smith’s for his encouragement and example. I now know that not only can be done but that it works. I can do this. More importantly, I want it more than ever.

I’m ready to rewrite my life.

Gardening and Tending

My attendance on this blog has been lacking. Okay, my attendance on all my blogs has been lacking. Even though I said on my other blog that I was going to get better about it. No, really, I want to be better at it.

I want to be better at a lot of things. My audiobooks have taken up a major percentage of my focus and time right now. I want great sounding audiobooks, so I’ve been working really hard at learning how to record, edit, and master great sounding audio. That’s even harder than it sounds. Especially when I keep finding problems in the hardware. Frustration and I are good friends now. Plus, I’ve been trying to update my ebook files (including correcting known issues in the files) so I can re-release them for wider distribution. I know that in today’s world it’s so easy to make corrections that it’s best to fix forward and I do believe in this “gardening and tending” philosophy. I know that nothing I ever do will be perfect (I’m not a perfectionist), but I start with as near as I can get and fix forward. I’m not sure how that will work with audiobooks, so that does scare me a bit, but we shall see what happens.

But another aspect of fixing forward is making sure you learn from your mistakes and doing your best to apply the knowledge next time. That’s always been my purpose here with betterwriterblog. I want to point out mistakes so that they can be avoided in the first draft. I don’t want anyone to get bogged down in editing so much that they never get around to releasing their stories. I also see now how this is my journey to be a better writer myself. I am in the process of teaching myself too. I think I’ll be tweaking my scope here to illustrate things I’m learning about being a writer as I make my journey. It’s not about the destination (whether that be a completed book or where you want to end up in life), it’s about the journey (how one continues to grow, even when that growth is painful).  I hope that what I share helps you become a better writer too.

Writing Action Scenes – Part 2

Whether or not you read the last post, I highly suggest you go (re)read it now. It is an important example.

The answer really is to write short sentences. It’s a little more than that though. The habit of Steven King’s use of one word chapters was a little excessive. You. Can’t. Just. Write. Like this. And. Get. Great. Results.

I’d like to take you back to my story for a moment. Let’s return and look at Dragons of Wellsdeep pages 8 and 9.

If you look at page 8, we start off in Moonhunter’s thoughts. The second paragraph has Moonhunter being fired upon. Except for the second-to-last sentence in the paragraph, they are all relatively short sentences or are divided by commas, which gives a feeling of a break.

The third paragraph has the sentences stretching out a bit more. It kind of feels all short and anxious, followed by a bigger span in order to breathe. Then we have Balthier’s and Moonhunter’s action and dialogue sequence. See how it starts off long and starts to get shorter as they go along. I’m increasing the page here with the white space of the page.

Now, in the last post, did you feel the intensity of it? Maybe a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more? I set up the great question, then slammed with the answer.

Bam! I have you.

It’s those short, punchy sentences where action has to take place. It locks you in. But you also have to have those longer sentences where the reader feels the space to breathe. You’re probably starting to feel a bit of the hypnotic spell here with post. At least I hope you are.

Now look at page 9 and see the sentences vary in length depending upon the emotional impact I want for the action scene.

Now, go write great action!

Dragons of Wellsdeep- pages 28 &29

Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg28_Dawn Blair

Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg29_Dawn Blair


Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg28_edit_Dawn Blair

Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg29_edit_Dawn Blair

Page 28 has a lot of things to change. Mostly, I think there’s a lot better ways to show this information rather than telling it. It’s going to expand the material greatly when I get to rewrite it.

Page 29 has less to fix, mostly because it’s dialogue, but there are still some things I can do better.

I also just noticed a spelling error I hadn’t seen before. I misspelled Moonhunter’s name on page 29, paragraph 8, by adding an extra “e” on the end. Does that make it French? “Moon-hun-tier”?  I wonder how many other things I have missed.

Happy writing.

Dragons of Wellsdeep- pages 26 & 27 edit

Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg26_Dawn Blair

Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg27_Dawn Blair


Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg26_edit_Dawn Blair

Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg27_edit_Dawn Blair

I actually like page 26 a lot. I didn’t have too much to say in the way of edit comments. I do have a couple things to check. You’ll notice that one of my notes is to “check compendium.” What’s that all about?

When I was reading about screenplay writing – I dare not say “studying” because I don’t think I went that deep – I learned that a lot of tv shows keep “bibles.” This is a list of characters, traits, habits, gestures, episodes – essentially everything a new writer would need to know when he/she started writing for the show. It was at time when I was working on my Sacred Knight story and I knew there would be a lot of characters and information. My character, Steigan, has a birthmark on one of his palms and I could never remember which side it was on. I finally made a decision that it was in his sword hand – a link between him, his sword, and his magic. But then one day I encountered a picture I had flipped just to make the composition better. Now his sword was in his left hand instead of his right. Really confusing! I had to go back to my compendium of notes just to get it straightened out in my head again. The side effect of this was that I now had my subconscious working on why he was carrying his sword in his left hand, and sure enough, it spit out the answer. Yeah, flipping that picture actually moved the story into the realm where the story is now. But that’s getting too far off course. The important thing is that you need to have a central place where you write down details that you will someday need to reference. I call this my “compendium.”

I have a compendium for Sacred Knight and I have one started for Dragons of Wellsdeep, both of which I keep in Celtx. I have a compendium for The Loki Adventures in Evernote because at this point I don’t need something as robust as Celtx, though I will probably need to convert soon when I start writing true episodic adventures. I have lots of notebooks in Evernote which serve as beginning compendiums for several other stories.

So, when I say, “check compendium,” I hope that I have my information already in the compendium and don’t have to go searching back through the story for the details. In this case that is fairly easy because I know it was in the prologue or in the first chapter when I established the names for the weapons.

Page 27 doesn’t look too disastrous, but I do have some areas to expand, places where I can show information rather than telling. I am on the fence about whether or not I want Balthier’s statement to be separate from the following paragraph or not. I think if I merge it all into one now, I’m going to need to break up that awfully long paragraph.

Well, that’s all I have for now.

Until next time, happy writing!

Dragons of Wellsdeep- pages 24 & 25 edit

Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg24_Dawn Blair

Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg25_Dawn Blair


Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg24_edit_Dawn Blair

Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg25_edit_Dawn Blair

Let’s look at my edit notes for these pages:

Page 24 is a lot of telling and prodding for more details. This really is where showing first draft material gets a little hard because I know that this is one of my weaker points. But it’s also very important, so please don’t get too bored. When I get started on the 2nd draft, you’ll start to see how this all rounds out, how it gets deeper because I know where I need to add things.

Do notice that I also point out things I like. That doesn’t mean they won’t be cut or emphasized more, but it’s a mark of something I feel I did right. Sometimes, you do need positive notes in your edit too, even to yourself so that it doesn’t get to feel like, “Oh, I’m such a failure! I can’t write. What am I thinking?” Again, that’s why I’m here showing you what the first draft looks like and illustrating how to fix it. If you’ve got it down, you’ve got a great start on people who only want to write a book but never do the work. So mark the spots you like!

Page 25 – what was this? Was there an explosion? If the ink was red, this page would be bleeding! Look at all the “was” words. There’s a lot of suggestions for improvement, plus a note to go into out-galaxy (OG) missions earlier. Yes, this is the mark of true first draft material. I really am learning the story here. In earlier pages, I had no idea that there was going to be a difference between off-world missions and out-galaxy missions, much like I didn’t know about the abilities of the dragonborn when I first started. I am learning as I go. That’s your proof.

How’s your manuscript coming? Hopefully well.

Until next time, happy writing and editing!

 

Dragons of Wellsdeep- pages 22 & 23 edit

Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg22_Dawn Blair

Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg23_Dawn Blair


Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg22_edit_Dawn Blair

Dragons of Wellsdeep_pg23_edit_Dawn Blair

Let’s look at my edit notes for these pages:

Page 22 is run amok with alliterations (words starting with the same letter: i.e. Peter Piper picked a patch of pickled peppers). I mostly wanted to notice it on the page when I come back to it because I kind of like it — all those “s” words give the illusion of spinning. However, I know that “spinning on her slippered foot” is really something I do with Keteria from my Sacred Knight series. I really need to make Sundancer different. Maybe she pirouettes. Okay, I really need to get some dancing terms for her — and that’s something I’m only realizing now as I’m writing this. So, if you notice while editing that something like this stands out, it might be more than just a note on the page. Dig deeper into your reason for why it stopped you.

There’s also a lot of “was” words. I do like the connection to the Norse mythology — it emphases the fact that this is an Earth-based universe versus a non-Earth based universe (blog coming on that later). It also ties it in to The Loki Adventures.

Page 23 – still wanting more information from the characters, how they are feeling, showing versus telling items. Then nearing the end of the page I’m getting into a lot of similar sentence structure: he tore, he couldn’t, she was, he wanted, he curled, he felt, etc. That tells me there is a good opportunity to add setting to their actions, and a lot more action and interactions between the characters. This is a very loose lace where I can embroider in more juicy details. That’s why there is the big MORE! at the end.

Are you getting enough in your writing? Maybe a second glance over it wouldn’t hurt.

Happy writing!