Tag Archives: Writing Exercises

The Art of Narrative, Part One: Introduction and POV

In my last post, I shared my love of short stories; one of the reasons I’m fond of them is the impressive manner in which they follow the full narrative path in a short amount of space. We are currently exploring the narrative arc and writing style in my Freshmen English classes, so the topic is fresh in my mind—and while many of us like to read and write, we have grown familiar (at least somewhat) with each stage of the narrative cycle. 

For anyone not familiar with the “narrative arc” concept, I’ve included a diagram similar to the one I used in my classes. If you Google images of the narrative arc, you’ll find that more commonly the arc is the same height in the beginning (“exposition”) and end (“resolution”). But if you think about it, most protagonists experience at least a minimal amount of growth in their narrative path, so I started drawing the resolution stage to indicate a character’s change through the course of the story (a big thanks to my clever colleague for pointing this out!).

Over the next several posts, I will be exploring the art of the narrative. I think this is valuable for two reasons: one, as writers, we get to experiment and play with the arc in our writing, but each stage is essential to whatever we create; two, as readers, the narrative arc helps define the stories that we treasure and love, and sometimes it is that very arc that perplexes/irks/mesmerizes us with the more unusual pieces we discover.

To kick off our Art of Narrative journey, I’d like to briefly talk about point of view, or POV. POV is a hot topic in the blogosphere of late, and in a moment I’m going to point you to a couple fantastic blog posts on the topic. As a refresher, there are four types of POV: first person, second person, and third person (limited or omniscient).

  • First person uses the “I” voice to maintain a story through the eyes of a single character who narrates the tale (either as a participant in the plot or a voyeuristic player of sorts). While it may seem an easy feat, the first person narrative can pose a challenge in its limited view of only one person’s perspective.
  • Second person addresses the narrator or protagonist as “you,” in essence turning you, the reader, into its character. This form is not as commonly used, but it does pack a creative punch.
  • Third person limited is perhaps the most commonly used POV; while we tend to reach for first person narrative as early writers because it is closer to home with its comfortable use of “I,” forcing oneself to step outside a bit—and still stay in the right person’s head—definitely requires some attention. This POV style may remain in one person’s perspective for the entirety of the work, or it can shift from scene to scene depending on the length of the piece.
  • Third person omniscient is less common but provides a “god-like” perspective, allowing the reader to see everything, but often not at such a great depth.

Because point of view has been such a popular topic of late, I don’t want to get into much more detail except to suggest you hop on over to two other blog posts that covered the topic in heavy (and exquisite!) detail. The first is by fellow blogger Katherine Checkley at the Intrinsic Writer. Katherine’s lovely piece on What’s the Right Point of View for Your Story? highlighted the pros and cons of each POV style, and is worth a good perusal. I’d also like to reference editor Beth Hill over at The Editor’s Blog for her thoughtful piece, The Curse of First-Person Narration. Ms. Hill points out some definite concerns that arise in the usage of the first person point of view, all of which should be kept in mind when using the style.

Though I have used a little of the first person POV in my writing, I have found I’m most comfortable writing in the third person limited style. I also prefer reading works of this point of view because I enjoy shifting across perspectives (though shifting is definitely less common in short stories). Each has its own value, and every author has a preference and best practice.

What about you? What is your favorite POV to write in? What POV do you prefer to read? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!

Please stay tuned next week, when I continue an exploration of the Art of Narrative. In the meantime, make sure to grab a good book this weekend and enjoy the narrative flow. 🙂

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Third Thursday Flash Edition Three: “Pages”

Welcome back! It’s time for the third edition of Third Thursday Flash!

Every three weeks, I craft a 500 to 1,000 word flash piece with a theme suggested by my fantastic blog readers. A theme submission call will come around again in about two weeks if you’d like to participate.

Today’s theme is brought to you by Nathan Payne over at The Writers Codex. Nathan suggested the phrase The pages fell open to start the piece, as well as the closing of a book at the end. Without further ado, thanks to Nathan for inspiring…

Pages

The pages fell open and Becca clapped her hand over her mouth. Beatrice told her it would do this, but she hadn’t imagined it would have so much power, as if the book had a will of its own.

“Woah,” she whispered.

A steady breeze filled the room and Becca swept her gaze over the closed window.

Did that come from the book?

She laid her hand on the pages. The crisp linen bond felt hot against her palm, warmer than any book should ever be—and right as she touched it, a beam of light shot across her ceiling. Becca tilted her head up, watching the light change from red, to teal, to orange, then into the brightest of yellows. It flickered across the ceiling like a rainbow mobile for a child.

Except this is for me!

Immediately the voices started, small chants of excitement as the creatures began to unstick themselves from the pages. Becca yanked back her hand, uncovering the squirming Princess character. She peeled herself off, her flat, colored body rolling up like an untacked sticker—first her head of long hair, her pink ‘o’ shaped mouth, and her shoulders, arms, and waist.

“Oh my,” Becca said.

“What are you doing up there, Becca?” her father called.

She straightened in her chair, her back in the rigid pose they’d practiced with her through her home-schooling years. It was the same posture they emphasized with Beatrice and her at the New School for Girls.

Thank goodness I met Beatrice!

“Nothing, dad!” She traced her finger over the meadow in the picture while the Princess released a soft huff and tugged her legs and skirt from the field. Becca couldn’t believe her eyes. “I’ll be down soon!”

“Ten minutes.”

“Okay…” She faced the pages, biting her tongue to suppress her squeal. The Princess ran her hands over her skirt and gave a wiggle, her paper-doll body tapering out into the miniature form of a real being.

“Who are you?” she said. Becca strained hard to hear her.

“I’m—”

Before she could answer, the pages flipped to another story. Several fairies and dwarves pushed and pulled against the crisscrossed fibers of the pages. They popped to the surface with grunts and whistles.

“Hey little lady! Thanks for the free pass!”

Only one scowled at her, shaking his cardboard body like a dog out of water until his flat self burst into a berry-shaped man of no more than an inch high.

“Yeah, thanks,” he muttered. He grabbed the hand of the embedded Queen by sinking his fingers into the paper—Becca’s jaw dropped open at that—and tugged her right off the page. When the Queen rounded out to a small human, she ran over to the Princess. They giggled before embracing one other.

“We’re free again!” they said.

“Well, for now!” Becca hoped they realized she had to go soon. The thumping in her chest echoed in her ears while the rest of the characters started coming to life. Princesses, princes, and creatures of all types unrolled from the pages and formed an army of characters on her bedspread. My own personal fairy tale! “Only until dinner time, guys…”

“That is the silliest thing I’ve ever heard,” the tiny centaur said. He threw his hands on his furry hindquarters, then pawed at the ground.

The lights on the ceiling started to shimmer and dance, mimicking the movements of the figures. They ran across the pages, high-fiving one another and squealing so loud that Becca’s dad called up to the room.

“What is going on up there, Becca?”

“Nothing, dad!”

Her mom chimed in. “We expect you in your dinner chair in two minutes!”

“Okay!” Becca looked around the room. No box, no chest, no drawer could contain the abundance of characters removing themselves from the pages. “Um, I have to go. I’ll come back later. I didn’t realize how many of you—“

“Becca! Right now!”

“Sorry!” Becca said. She scooped all the figures up as best she could, then shoved them into the crease of the open book.

“Wait, what about us?”

“Hey, we’re people too, you know.”

“Little miss, this isn’t very nice—“

She slammed the book shut. The lights disappeared from the ceiling and the noise of the figures fell quietly from their confinement within the pages. Becca leaned her mouth close to the binding.

“I’ll be back in an hour,” she said. “Can’t wait to see you all again!”

“Becca! Dinnertime.”

“I’m coming!” She shoved the book under her bedspread, pressing her hands to her cheeks in an attempt to calm the excitement that brightened her face. She ran to the door and cast one last glance at the lump under the covers. “I promise, you guys!” she said.

Then she left for dinner.

***

Thanks for reading the third edition of Third Thursday Flash. Have a great weekend, everyone! 🙂


Third Thursday Flash Edition Two: “Beneath the Waves”

Welcome back! It’s time for the second edition of Third Thursday Flash!

Every three weeks, I am crafting a 500 to 1,000 word flash piece with a theme suggested by you, my fantastic blog readers. If you’d like to participate, keep an eye out for a theme submission call in about two weeks.

Today’s theme is brought to you by Sue W., a wonderful woman I know not only as a blog reader, but also as a friend and colleague. Sue watched a Discovery Channel show on the potential reality of mermaids, and the effects of naval sonar on their existence. I thought the idea sounded great! I’m also a little bummed I missed the show!

But without further ado, thanks to Sue for inspiring…

 

Beneath the Waves

Annie swept her hair aside, letting it float around her shoulders. The strands followed her like a gentle mist, waves of color that drifted within the lull of the ocean’s whisper. The only break in its sweet hum was the echo of sonar in the distance.

“Will he find us, mama?”

Annie ceased her strokes. She kicked her fins just enough to roll onto her back, then floated in the cloudy depths while Kata took her hand. Her daughter had started to form in the subtle ways of a young woman, her torso growing shapely and her cheekbones more defined. Kata’s lips puckered as she watched the whale pod swimming nearby, their small grey eyes pained by the sonar vibrations that increased each passing day. It would not be long before the noise grew close, driving them from the water as it had the creatures of the past.

Annie tugged Kata’s hand, then used her tail to drive them forward and up. They broke the surface beside the ridge, where the waves crested against the algaed rocks in a white roll of foam. This spot was safe, a place that only she and Kata knew.

And of course Davad.

Day-vad, he’d told her then. His name, like his story, was a mystery that swayed her whenever he reappeared.

Kata folded her arms over the rocks. She laid her chin on her forearms, her eyes bluer than the ocean as she gazed across the endless water surface. “He will, right, mama?”

Annie trailed her hand along Kata’s shoulder. The girl’s chest heaved slightly until her gills tucked themselves closed, allowing her to breathe the salty sky air.

“I hope so,” she said. She remembered the day Davad’s giant ship arrived. The moonlight had shined high above them while they anchored, and when he peeked over the edge, she’d known that he was hers to hold.

Once his mates fell to sleep, he’d crawled down to the surface of the reef. There he swung his feet in the ripples of the water, singing a tune so foreign and sweet that Annie had been compelled to surface alongside him.

“You are the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen,” he’d said.

Under the moonlight, they told each other stories of their lands—or in her case, of the deep waters, the others of her kind, and the torturous sounds of the sonar that ripped through their ears, threatening to send them to the surface.

Where we would not survive.

Davad swore he would find a way. He had promised it every time he came to her, meeting her in the moonlight until her belly swelled high and slowed her strokes in the water. She’d been vulnerable at the depths, but she had survived, as had their beautiful daughter, Kata.

They returned when Kata was old enough to swim the distance and found a bottle caught in the rocky ridge. The note within bore five simple words that she could read.

“I will find a way.

“We’ve come here every week for years. How many weeks until he comes?” Kata tilted back her head and stared into the sun. “What if he never comes? We will need to find a better place, away from the—”

“He will come,” Annie said. She peered at her daughter. The girl deserved to know the human who had stolen her heart from the warm watery depths.

She flicked her tail repeatedly, sending a spray over their heads until Kata’s stern frown broke into laughter. The sound came out a lovely melody, the same pitch that Annie once used to draw Davad into her arms.

Kata ceased her laughter and pressed her hand to Annie’s cheek. Her eyes reflected the sun setting far away on the horizon. Nothing floated around them save for the driftwood that bobbed as quiet as the looming night sky.

“We will wait as long as you like, mama. But if I have you, I could live beneath the water forever without him.”

Annie squeezed her daughter’s hand.

Together, they waited for the ship that never came.

 

***

Thanks for reading the second edition of Third Thursday Flash. The next edition will be in three weeks, so start thinking of your suggestions. In the meantime, have a great Labor Day weekend! 🙂


New Blog Feature

I learned a lot at the Cascade Writers Workshop last weekend, but one of the most important things I picked up was the necessity of writing more. This is helpful for the obvious reasons, of course—but perhaps the reason that hit me hardest was that to be a successful writer, you must learn to write enough that no one piece becomes your heart and soul. Sure, you can love a piece, but in reality you have a next piece, and a next piece, and then that very next piece, all of which are equally worthy of your attention and love until you write the next one.

I love my first book, Kyresa. I spent many years on it, a fact due largely to a series of breaks that lasted for years at a time. Because of this, the novel became my “baby” of sorts, and sending her off to college (aka sending her out to agents) was a huge deal. But here’s the truth: I am certain that none of my next books will take that long, and I’m delighted for the experience. Will they be just as important to me? Absolutely! Will I pour my heart and soul into them? Yes! But do I need to get so attached that I spend years and years (and years and more years) on them?

That would be a big fat no.

The reason is that writing more will make me a stronger writer, eventually making it easier and faster. This is why I’ve decided that for the next six months, I’d like to devote most of my writing time to crafting short stories. In this way, I will have the experience of starting and finishing, repeatedly, at a quicker pace, before I start my next novel. Will every one of these shorts be amazing? Certainly not. Will they all be good practice in improving my art? Totally, and for that I’m quite excited about this plan.

That said, I’m introducing a new blog feature called THIRD THURSDAY FLASH. Every third Thursday, I will post a flash fiction piece—but there’s a catch.

YOU, dear readers, will be suggesting the themes!

It can simply be an idea, a couple of words you’d like mentioned within the piece, or a prompt, but every time, one of you will suggest it! I think it’s a fun twist on writing flash, and I do hope you’ll participate. 🙂 The person whose theme is selected will also get a shout out to celebrate his or her awesome theme (unless you prefer otherwise). I will put out a call for theme submissions the Thursday before each flash week and will select one from the bunch for the Thursday that follows. The ideas can be zany, cute, fun, wild, intelligent, or whatever you wish, and I’m going to try to put a fantasy or sci-fi spin on them in 500 to 1,000 words.

For the first edition of Third Thursday Flash, I opened the theme up only to my newsletter subscribers. (Not receiving the newsletter yet? You can do so by sending a blank email to EvaRieder-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.) Only one person was brave enough to submit a theme, but it was a goodie. So, let’s get on to business!
 
Thanks to Mari Naomi for the theme of Maliciousness and Road Rage (and what an interesting theme it is!). Here’s what I put together for the first edition of Third Thursday Flash. I hope you enjoy it!
 

DADDY’S BOY

 
Clara popped the bottle back into Max’s tiny mouth, his long-eyelashed blues blinking in forgiveness and his cries quieting to long slurps on the nipple.

She turned forward, the crawl of traffic slow enough to justify her movement. Max had a pair of lungs that could blow an eardrum, and with the toll plaza approaching, she couldn’t handle more than five seconds of it. The sound was a gift from his father, and she shuddered every time Max wailed with the same sentiment of burning rage.

Clara turned the radio dial until she found some music, then took a quick glance in her rearview at the child’s shifting eyes. They’d changed from blue to red and back again in an instant, and she only calmed when he soothed himself on the bottle. She’d made a deal with his daddy, true, but she hadn’t anticipated Max would inherit the same temper.

A sharp sequence of tones broke into the song before a newsflash.

“Traffic alert! Three left lanes of the eastbound Rainen Bridge closed due to an injury accident…”

“Oh you’ve got to be kidding me,” Clara muttered. She glanced at the traffic ahead—all three lanes appeared to be blocked about a mile in front of them, leaving only one lane for every car to funnel into.

She was already late for Max’s daycare drop-off. Late for work, late for her meeting, and now she’d have to explain it all over again. She’d only gone back to work four months ago after a rough first year—how else could she explain the experience with a child like Max—and her boss definitely wasn’t thrilled. This single parent thing meant nothing to him except that she was late all the time.

Late and covered in spit-up and mashed sweet potatoes. And of course paranoid about when Max is going to—

Max let out a wail and Clara spun her head to catch him dropping the bottle on the floor. It rolled under the passenger seat.

“Crap,” she said.

When she spun forward she nearly collided with the blue Dodge in front of her. She shrieked and slammed both feet on the brake, the man in the truck throwing a middle finger out the window.

“Eff you, lady! Don’t you see the traffic? Watch where you’re going!”

“I know, I know!” Yelling probably wasn’t the best option with her window open, but the man kept waving his finger in the air. Max began to howl.

Clara peered into the mirror again, her precious little boy shaking his fists and beginning to remind her even more of the man who’d fathered him. Max’s eyes flashed red and wrinkles formed around his rippling lips. For the millionth time she wished she’d had the sense to say no to his father.

But how could she have? A lifetime of happiness if she’d do him this one little screaming favor….

“Shh, honey, it’s okay.” The traffic continued to merge into the single lane, a ruckus of honks spreading across the freeway. A small crack opened up in the lane beside her and Clara managed to move alongside the Dodge. The man waggled his finger at her and the hairs on the back of her neck prickled.

Didn’t these people know better than to throw their rage around at other drivers? It wasn’t a good idea, especially with Max able to see it all.

But they don’t know that, Clara.

“Shh, baby, come on,” she said, eyeing him. Max’s eyes widened as he cried, his sniffles turning into huffs and snorts. If she couldn’t calm him down, this wouldn’t end well.

A bolt of lightning zipped across the sky. It dipped close to the merging traffic, and when she sucked in a breath, another snapped above the blue Dodge. “Max,” she said, refusing to face her son. “I know you understand me. Don’t you do it. You keep yourself calm, sweetheart.”

She looked over at the Dodge driver and yanked her cheeks up in a bright smile, hoping a little flirtation would work its charm and calm him down.

That’s how I won Max’s father over.

Another bolt ripped inches above the Dodge, and the man threw his head out the window. “What the heck?”

“Hey, look sir, I’m sorry about earlier!” She hated apologizing, but if Max didn’t notice him calm down or hear him apologize…. Clara leaned toward the window. “Really sir, I’m so sorry!”

The man waved her off, distracted by the lightning. He spoke loud enough for her to hear him but kept his focus on the plume of black fog that rolled in over the water. “It’s all good, lady, I’m over it. What’s with this sky? Really, it’s no biggie. Just pay attention, you hear?”

“Of course!” She smiled in the mirror and Max’s cries stilled. “See, honey, he said he was sorry. Take a deep breath. No need to protect mama today.”

Max coughed one last gasp of anger before sticking his finger in his mouth. He suckled it all the way down to his knuckle and the sky turned right back into the sunny skies they’d had five minutes prior.

The radio crackled back to life. “All lanes opening on the Bridge! Great work to the fast clean up crew.”

Clara breathed a sigh as she eyed her child.

***

Thanks for reading the first edition of Third Thursday Flash. The next edition will be in three weeks, and I’ll put a call out for themes a week in advance. Start thinking of your suggestions now! 🙂


One Amazing Conference!

The Cascade Writers Conference was fantastic! It’s taken me a few days to recover and gather my thoughts—something I’m noticing around the web as a commonality between other attendees of this adventure—but now I’m excited to share how much fun I had!

I found the Cascade Writers workshop by random googling of “fantasy writing conference + summer,” and I can’t be happier at the twist of fate that landed me in Vancouver, Washington this last weekend. I don’t know if I would have had the same experience at any other workshop, but I’m so grateful that this was my first. I met oodles of fantastic people, beautiful minds, and lovely souls, and I came home like a kid bemoaning the end of summer camp!

Critique workshopping was the main focus of the Cascade Conference. Each attendee submitted a 3,750 word story or chapter about six weeks in advance, and was assigned to a group of six to eight people under the guidance of a skilled group leader. We were expected to critique the piece before the conference, where we used the Milford style to share our thoughts. Initially, the task seemed daunting—peers and a leader critiquing our words, and then being expected to professionally, kindly, and thoughtfully do the same for those around us. But the groups were generally warm and friendly, and in my group in particular, quite fun! Ken Scholes, a speculative fiction author, led our group, and we all left feeling as though we’d gained an incredible mentor and friend. After the critiquing, each member had a one-on-one session with mentors to discuss anything about the craft. I’m not sure if this personalized guidance component happens at other conferences, but it certainly helped me!

The event also boasted workshops and seminars on all sorts of pieces to the craft: a playful segment on “Revision and Editing” with Jay Lake, a tremendously helpful piece to “Outline Your Story in 90 Minutes” by Mark Teppo, a creative journey to find “Stories on the Fly” by Ken Scholes, and an informative “Query Letter Workshop” with Michael Carr (the agent with whom I had the opportunity to informally practice chatting about my book). Several other segments filled the time, but these were my favorites for their usefulness and approaches to the topic at hand.

The instructional component through seminars and critique workshops was grand, but one aspect of the conference remained the best experience of them all: that of talking and getting to know other authors. The world is a competitive place, but the writing world is not. There’s no reason for it! Each of us brings something unique to the table, and writers stand out as a tribe of people opening their arms and sharing their craft with one another. I learned so much this weekend, but my favorite part was the chance to get to know these people on a personal level and just hang out. I came home with over two dozen new contacts and friends that I’m delighted to have in my circle. In some cases the connection focused on the craft itself, and in others, it was just about making amazing friends—going to lunch with fifteen-people groups, sharing flash fiction in a hotel room with three great gals in my group, or even closing down the nearby bar talking “life” with the brilliant and fun minds of Patrick Swenson (author, publisher, and editor of speculative fiction) and Mark Teppo (speculative fiction author and conference speaker). I hardly slept, I ate and drank a tad too much, and I came home still feeling warm and fuzzy at the warm mental hugs we all shared.

All in all, would I do it again? Yes. Absolutely.

Can any conference compare to the awesomeness of the Cascade Writers Workshop? I’ve no idea, but I’m looking forward to trying more.

And what were the best things I learned? Write, write, write, and write more, and of course, make lots of new friends. 🙂

A big thank you to Karen Junker, who did a spectacular job of organizing the event. (And also a thank you to the very nice bar server who let us stay well-past closing. 😉 )

Keep writing, everyone!


Off to a Conference!

Well, I’m a day away from attending my very first writing conference, and I’m so excited!

In the past weeks I’ve been hyper-focused on my novel, Kyresa. My goal was to have it finalized, edited, and proofed by the conference, so that I could start querying agents the moment I got home. Goal attained! I can now rest easy knowing the creation part is done…and the hard part—marketing—is about to begin.

Bring it!

Tomorrow I will head off for the Cascade Writers Workshop, where I will get to work with several other writers, as well as a handful of editors and agents. Most of the authors attending also write in the fantasy genre, and I expect it will be a great time. (The numerous hilarious emails flying around between group members are starting to confirm my suspicions!) We will be workshopping, critiquing, socializing, and writing as a group, and I’ll also be pitching Kyresa at a formal pitch session. Fun!

Since I still have a gigantic To Do list to tackle before my flight tomorrow (um, starting with PACKING, sort of important…), I’m going to sign off for now. When I return, I’m sure I’ll have tons of stories to share. Can’t wait!

Also next week: I’ll be settling into a more regular blogging schedule again (TBA) and I’ll share my thoughts on Stephen King’s On Writing. I’ll leave you with one word for now: fantastic.

Stay tuned, and have a splendid rest of the week, everyone! 🙂


How I Edit

You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you.  And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.  ~Arthur Polotnik

An editor is someone who separates the wheat from the chaff and then prints the chaff.  ~Adlai Stevenson, as quoted in You Said a Mouthful edited by Ronald D. Fuchs

If I don’t answer my phone today, it’s because I’m editing. Or, I jumped out the window. ~Me
As many of you know, I’ve been on a mission to edit my work in progress, Kyresa. There are some steps left before I can actually call the book “finished,” but I am pleased to announce the editing stage is officially done! Woo hoo!

Editing is a funny thing—it is imperative for crafting a quality piece, but it’s also a grueling, tedious stage that must usually happen several times. While every writer edits, I don’t believe every writer edits in the same manner. Today I thought I’d share the process I used for the most recent edit of Kyresa.

First of all, this last edit was more of an edit/rewrite/edit mashup. I had an idea that I might potentially want to change the ending, but I knew that I couldn’t make that decision until I re-immersed myself in the story. When I started, Kyresa was 111,400 words. That’s about 404 pages, double-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman font. I printed it out 2-sided and put it into a binder that I could tote around wherever I went. I armed myself with three goals:

  • Cut the crap.
  • Cut the crap.
  • Cut the crap.

Then I set five more goals to work through as I edited:

  • If there’s a simpler way to say it, find it.
  • Lay off the dialogue tags if the speaker is clear. (“You sure do talk a lot, Eva,” THE BLOG READER SAID.)
  • Keep an eye on adverbs, because Mr. Stephen King thinks they’re the devil and he probably knows his devils writing horror and all.
  • Don’t rob the reader of the right to come up with her own image of the person/place/thing by giving too many showing details. (I am a control freak, so over-explanation can happen.) (Like that last parenthetical comment.) (Sorry.)
  • Decide if I want to change the ending. (I wrote a note to myself about 20 pages after where I thought I’d like to end it that said, “Are you feeling an ending change, Eva?”—and yes, this is actually written on the page.)

So, I went through the whole book this way, marking all over it with a variety of pens. Some pages were just a little marked up, and some looked like I had a blue/green/red pen party and just dripped the ink everywhere like a crazy person. And when I made my way to the moment of ending-change decision, I opted to go for it!

This is where the “rewrite” part of the mashup happened. I pulled all the scenes I wanted to delete out of the binder and tucked them in the back, but kept the scenes between that I thought were useful. Then I blared Clannad’s “I Will Find You” two times as theme music before setting off to write the new ending. (I generally do not write to music, but sometimes I will listen to it and run it through my head as I write. Or blurt out singing. Either way works.) I then printed out the new scene and stuck it in the binder, and went back to fix the story where necessary to accommodate my new ending. This involved a lot of scrap paper hole punched and stuck in where appropriate, and lots of lines written over entire margins. I also seriously edited my new scene, since it was freshly written and needed some heavy tuning.

Once I got to the last page, I started to tear up. In fact, I get teary-eyed every time I get to the end of this book. (This means either it’s moving or I’m a complete sap, only time will tell.)

After that, I watched a movie and then cleaned up my office (please reference Clean Space, Fresh Perspective for more info on this, and if you’re feeling a tad more voyeuristic, you can learn about and see what my office space looks like in a guest post I did here), but from then on it was business. I proceeded to enter all the changes into the computer. This took a loooonnnggggg time (days), because along the way I found other little changes, and of course I did all of this knowing there were more to come. Over and over again. And again.

After the changes were in, Kyresa was down to about 101,000 words—I’d say half of this was due to the ending change and the other half to my aforementioned goals. But I still wasn’t done!

Now came the “find and replace” (F&R) game.

I did this with every word I’d noticed as an overused word when I edited, and with others I found through the SmartEdit software I mentioned in my last post. I searched for repeated actions (sighing, for example), passive voice (was, were, to be) and for words we humans tend to overuse without realizing (that, so, few, really, very, just, even, like, and many others). Changing these words didn’t always entail deleting or the simple use of the “replace” function; sometimes the whole sentence needed restructuring. In addition, I went through Every.Single.Adverb that SmartEdit recorded and evaluated its purpose, and ran the dreaded F&R one more time for the word as (which, by the way, I am now seeing everywhere, and it makes me want to throw things).

All of this cut Kyresa way down in unnecessary wordage—to 93,400 words, as a matter of fact!

(Oh my gawd I said “as” and I think I’m going to scream!)

After that, I did a happy dance. This was both to celebrate and to cheer me up, because every time I did the F&R function I went from the beginning to the end of the novel—meaning there were a lot of teary eyes again. Geez…

Lastly, I ran a spellcheck and a computer-version of proofread (which is hilarious for a fantasy novel, by the way: Wench. “Sexist expression. Avoid using this word.”), printed it out, and set it aside for a few days to stew before I proofread it for any glaring grammatical errors, typos, or other oddities that need cutting.

Another thing of note—and I want to mention this because I think it’s important no matter what you’re writing, be it a book, some poetry, or a paper for school—I resave about every 10 minutes, and each day I save the file with a new name. “Kyresa(updated 7-1-12),” then “Kyresa(updated 7-2-12),” etc., so that I can always go back if I change my mind on cutting a scene. And though I have a backup drive, I also email the file to myself every few days (because a backup drive is no good if your house burns down).

Sooooo…there you have it, my editing process. 🙂

Now I’m curious: what’s yours? Please share in the comment section below! I’m sure many of you have some great ideas that the rest of us would like to [steal] know about! Thanks for sharing, and happy editing!


What’s In a Name?

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

—From Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare

I’ve been editing my WIP, Kyresa, for the last time (and yes, I really mean it!). Since it is a fantasy book, it has a collection of unusual names, as do many of the books I read in the Fantasy and Sci-Fi genres. Add to that my plethora of friends with wildly interesting names, and I got to thinking—what’s in a name?

Parents often spend months coming up with a suitable list of names for their soon-to-be-born, one that will need to stick with the child as she grows up, takes on her own unique traits, and eventually becomes who and what she is as a person. So how is it that parents pick the perfect name?

And in a similar manner, how is it that we, as authors, pick our characters’ names?

We almost have an easier task, I think: we have a vision for a character, a set of traits, experiences, and journeys already in mind as we set about to write, and from this we can choose a name to match. Sometimes, we may already know the name in advance—and like the choosing of a baby name before parents know anything about their child, somehow, the name tends to fit. (And if it doesn’t, we can always change it later without the hassle of legal paperwork. Thank goodness!)

When I write, I usually have a vision of a character and then suddenly the name just comes out on paper. I really can’t explain how this happens—I see the character doing A, B, or C, and start typing, and then suddenly said character’s name is right there, typed in front of me. Usually, the name sticks. If nothing’s called to me immediately, the name will be a placeholder. I won’t lie—[the chick], [sassafras], and [what’s his face] have been used as temporary holds before. 🙂 Still, it’s generally pretty rare for me to not feel the rush of a suitable name. Even rarer is a name change—Kyresa actually underwent a slight change a year ago, requiring me to undo over a decade of pronouncing her name the old way as I talked about her character. That was tough. But tougher was finding a new name for a character I’d known so long. (Envision post-its with different spellings of names all over the house for a month and you’ve nailed the experience.)

Since I usually feel the name as I write, I suppose that explains how parents can look at their newborn and know the name they’ve chosen is the right one. So I’m curious—how do you pick names for your characters? Do you flip through baby books, or keep a catalog of names alphabetically? Do you sound out syllables until they match the feeling you have for the character? Or, do you simply drop them on the page like I do, changing them only if they conflict with your vision of the character?

Please feel free to share your methods in the comment section below. Whether it be for baby names or character names, how do you smell a rose? 🙂


An Idea; the Love Affair

From heaviness sprang an idea

—A tantalizing whisper, a glimmer of thought,

Speeding the pulse and setting the mind afire.

We danced around, back and forth

This idea and I

Circling, panting, and colliding

As though we were meant to be

Two parts together; a whole

We raced into the room

To create, to craft, to burn

Grappling frenziedly as we whispered into each other’s ears

Clothes fluttering to the floor

Exposing our wants, our wishes;

And then we

Pieced together our dreams

Our destiny,

Becoming one in a moment,

Blooming from the confines of our once lonely lives

Into the fire of an idea,

Our idea.

And it was love.

***

Just thought I’d try something new today…and yes, there’s a little spark of an idea brewing in my mind right now… Can’t wait to see where it leads!

Happy writing, everyone. 🙂


Playing with Setting

Writing setting is all about creating a location and making it as real to the reader as possible. Some authors spend a great deal of their exposition on setting, while still others choose to infuse it more gradually throughout their work. No matter what the method, the act of building setting is essential, since it helps to create the very atmosphere and tone that will embrace the readers approaching your work.

This week I flew to visit some of my family. Most of us have been on an airplane at least once in our lives, making it easy to identify several common features: cramped seats, narrow aisles, tiny bathrooms, packaged peanuts or pretzels, miniature drinks, grouchy people, rickety tray tables, and colorful emergency pamphlets. As I sit on the plane, I always try to find some enjoyment in elaborating on these features. I think of it as playing with my setting.

I’ll start with a simple statement: It is 8:40, and I am on an airplane. Then I’ll begin to add some key details.

I am on an 8:40 p.m. flight, wedged uncomfortably into my uneven seat due to the broken spring beneath my left thigh. The plane reeks of stale pretzels and a potential sanitary issue in the nose-end bathroom.

As the flight attendants begin their speech about the procedure should we experience a sudden change in cabin pressure, I add in a few more details.

The air that spews from the vents above is doing nothing but suffocating me with a steady stream of hot air, making it more difficult to breathe against the surrounding stench.

The man next to me sneezes without covering his mouth, and after stealing a quick glance in his direction, I add more to my mental image.

The hum of the jet steadily increases, but not as rapidly as the sound of breathing that pours from the stuffy nose of the man to my right. He squirms in his seat, sneezing repeatedly until I’m forced to peer away. At the same moment, the little girl to my left tugs off her sweater, her sleeve nearly smacking me in the jaw.

Suddenly I realize that the dismal light above is not going to provide much to read by, leaving me little to do but continue my imagined ride. I do, after all, write fiction. Why not make this airplane scene go in a slightly more fantastical direction?

The girl looks up to me, her eyes glowing a light shade of green. She grins, her teeth sharp against her rose-red tongue and her lips pursing together when the man to my right sneezes again. She peers past my shoulder, her eyes slitting narrowly at him as the plane hits some turbulence. It bounces us violently in our seats in a manner that somehow does not seem to affect her.

The man sneezes. The girl licks her lips. Across the aisle, another man stands from his seat, so I add this in too.

Despite the captain’s direction for us to remain in our seats, a lanky man across the aisle stands from his chair, beginning to chat up the flight attendant before he heads toward the nose-end bathroom in a near run.

Then:

A thud sounds from the left of the airplane, as if something hit the plane and bounced repeatedly along its side. A shadow passes over us, the darkness outside creeping in, mimicking the growing smile from the girl in seat 7A. The chill looming over our row makes the sneezer in seat C and me in seat B start to shiver convulsively….

The joy of setting is that it can effectively set the tone for the work to-be. I have  no idea what to do with my airplane vision so far, but when I make a few tweaks and tie all the setting details together (as well as a little characterization and some information to build a scene), here’s what I have:

I buckle my seat belt on the 8:40 p.m. flight, my body pitched at an uncomfortable angle thanks to the broken spring beneath my left thigh. The plane reeks of stale pretzels and a potential sanitary issue in the nose-end bathroom, and the steady stream of hot air from the vent above makes it even more difficult to breathe against the stench. While the hum of the jet steadily increases, so does the ragged breathing that pours from the stuffy-nosed man next to me. He squirms, rocking our seats as he sneezes repeatedly, forcing me to peer away. As I turn, the little girl to my left tugs off her sweater and nearly smacks me in the jaw with her sleeve. She mutters, “Sorry,” before looking up at me, her light green eyes glowing. When she grins, her teeth press sharply against her rose-red tongue. The man to my right sneezes again and the little girl purses her lips together. She peers past my shoulder at him as the plane hits some turbulence and bounces us violently in our seats. She is not affected, her eyes slitting narrowly when the captain directs us to remain in our seats and a lanky man across the aisle stands from his chair. He chats up the flight attendant before running toward the nose-end bathroom at full speed.

A repeated thud sounds from the left of the airplane, as if something hit the plane and bounced along its length until it flew off into the nothingness behind us. Immediately a shadow passes over, the darkness outside creeping in, mimicking the growing smile from the girl in seat 7A. The sneezer in seat C and I start to shiver convulsively…

Though it is most certainly not a finalized scene, the setting aspects already have me thinking of where I could go from here. Playing with setting like this is a good practice to hone in useful details for writing, even if this particular piece never comes to life in a real story. The feel of the plane, and the random acts of the people around me on the plane, are all items that could be stashed in a mental rolodex of story components.

As I’m thinking about this, the lights above the walkway randomly start flickering, causing a gasp from some of the other passengers. I smile, then close my eyes to take a nap before we land…the sound of 7C’s stuffy breathing in my ear.

Happy Friday the 13th, everyone!


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