There And Draft Again

A Fellowship of Fantasy Writers

Fantasy Diversity December 14, 2013

Before people wrote down stories, the whimsical orations of fantasy worlds and fantastical events were the entertainment of a population. As such, fantasy has garnished a reputation that seems to demand certain elements be involved in the tale lest it no longer be considered fantasy. This tends to involve magic, people who can use magic and more often than not, a bunch of white guys. Young white guys, old white guys…super old white guys. Clearly, fantasy has not been a shining example of diversity from its beginnings.

However, lately, more writers are branching out from fantasy clichés and introducing increasingly realistic and diverse elements into their plotlines. Characters of color, characters who are attracted to the same sex, characters with disabilities and even characters dealing with substance abuse. This isn’t a ploy to make their story stand out…it’s a way to make it real! Even in a fantasy world, not everyone should be a straight, white man. Our stories should reflect that.

Yes, this might be a prospect that freaks out some fantasy purists, but the times are changing and it’s time the fantasy does too. There needs to be more characters in these wonderful worlds that face challenges that minority groups experience. Think back to classics like Lord of the Rings or Narnia or even Harry Potter. The diversity is slim to none in all of those titles. That isn’t to say a diverse cast can’t be popular with the larger population. Of course it can! In fact, it could thrive based on its diversity alone. If it has a killer plot and interesting worldbuilding like those staples of fantasy, imagine the progress the genre could make?

Is there a group of type of character you’d like to see more in fantasy?

Is there a character or book that you feel represents minorities well?

Share your thoughts and together we can encourage a new generation of all-inclusive fantasy novels.

~Rachel H

 

Line Edits! And why you need them. November 13, 2013

Filed under: Publishing,Writing — thereanddraftagain @ 7:40 pm
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All right, here is my much anticipated (dreaded?) line edits post!

I first heard about the existence of line edits via Leigh Ann Kopans’ blog, where she chronicled the publication of her first novel, ONE. I had never heard of them before that, but now that I’ve done them for both Coldness of Marek and Knights of Rilch, I can’t imagine having not done them. My novels would be far less stellar pieces of work.

If you read my post last month on revising for publication, I sum up one final revision you’ll want to do if you’re going to self-publish a novel. The next step after that revision is line edits. But line edits are also a great idea if you’re querying agents/subbing to publishers, because they’re just so nifty.

Most of the revisions and tweaks you’ve been doing up until you’re ready for line edits have been macro — as in, whole paragraphs being moved or deleted, if not chapters — but you’ve probably already done plenty of line editing in the middle of all that. Line edits are all about the phrasing, the word usage, the OVER-usage, the placement of line breaks, etc. These are different from copyedits. (Copyedits involve grammar and punctuation errors, as well as other little magical things that we mortal writers might not know about, and no matter which publication path you choose, you’re not the one responsible for them. Your copyeditor is! If you’re self-pubbing, get thee down and find thyself an excellent one.)

So. How do you go doing a full-on line edit? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Once your manuscript is in what you deem to be ready, publishable form, go through it line by line and question every sentence. Is it passive? Is it repetitive? Is the phrasing just right? Is there a better word for fleece, or did you really mean fleece? Did you start too many sentences with, “She” or “I”? Would mentioning the chair first be more powerful? Would it be more in character for Henry to say “I will kill you” or “I will end you”?

All these decisions are likely to make you half crazy, and I have a lovely, perfect solution for that as well. Employ your CPs. Are there any of them who are extra good at catching little line issues like this? Did they notice little things on their first pass? Great. Ask one of them (and I say one, because you can only use so much input on the line-by-line basis before you go insane, but there’s really no set limit) — bribe them, trade with them, pay them with cookies or favors — to go through slowly and laboriously and pick on every. Little. Tiny. Word. You can hire someone to do this, but the reason I say pick a CP is because you already know that they understand your voice and your writing. They’re not going to steer you wrong. Tell them you want ALL THE NOTES. You want them to be brutal. Remember, you’re releasing this novel into the wild. It needs to be nice. It needs to shine.

After you get those notes back from your trusted CP or beta reader or whomever, the ball is back in your court and it’s time to do your own line edit. Even if you did a picky edit before, it’s good to look at it again with fresh perspective. Take this:

I stepped inside the room. It was quiet — too quiet. “Jenna?” I whispered. There was no reply. Not even the sound of breathing, or the clatter of her stirring in bed.

There’s nothing really wrong with it. It’s all a matter of taste and mood at this point. I could do this:

I stepped inside. “Jenna?”

It was far too quiet. No Jenna. Not even the sound of her breath or the clatter she made when she stirred in bed.

Or this:

I stepped inside the room. The sound of my shoe echoed, then disappeared into eerie blackness.

“Jenna?” My voice almost startled me.

But there was no answer. Nothing besides thick velvet silence.

See what I mean? You can get more wordy, or less, cut down on the line breaks, or multiply them, etc. Is one of them better than the rest? I don’t know. It’s hard to say. But there are all kinds of possibilities that you may never have noticed until you got all the little pieces worked out to the point you can be micro. Teeny tiny. It sounds like it will be hell, but I swear to you, this nit-picky pass is so very freeing you will get addicted to it.

And then? A final read-through. If you can find someone who can stand to listen to your whole novel aloud, I recommend reading it to someone, not just to yourself. Because you’ve read it so many times, there might be something you say aloud that causes the listener to go “huh?”, but you would have glazed right over it. Work this thing. Work it really hard…

When you’re done? SEND IT OFF. Whether it be to your agent, your copy-editor, a final beta reader, or a pile of queries, get that thing sent off before you have a chance to question the brilliant fire it just came through.

Of course, mix and match these steps as they work for you. I found that what I did with the two novels* I’ve released so far varied slightly, and I’ll probably do something a little different for my third book. Everyone has a different process, so don’t take any of this as gospel. Just use what you need, and happy editing!

–Rachel O’Laughlin

*I went through line edits with my longsuffering CP, Darci Cole, on both of my manuscripts, line-edited myself, and then asked my incredible editor, Rebecca A. Weston, to keep an eye out for anything weird that might have slipped through us both (not all freelance editors offer this, but mine does).

 

Revising for Publication October 3, 2013

Filed under: Publishing — thereanddraftagain @ 8:42 pm
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Right on trend, I’m following Mara and posting a day late because I was apparently so engrossed in critiquing my CP’s manuscript that I couldn’t read my calendar. #headdesk

This post, and the next few posts of mine, will be allllll about revising and editing, so…grab some coffee. I know this will make you sleepy.

I am the world’s worst outliner. There, I said it. Phew. No matter how hard I try to outline, I always abandon it somewhere in the middle and just wing it. Of course, this makes for a crazy amount of revision. My CPs [and my editor] have waded through an awful lot of my crap and given me straight-up amazing advice, and I love them to pieces for it. Anyhoo, I don’t figure I’m the one to give you advice on how to outline, or how to write a draft. As much as I love drafting, I’m crazy spontaneous about it and don’t really have a rule besides “let your hair down and have a good time…oh, and freak out while you’re at it!”

When you first look at that beast you created and it’s time to revise, you’re probably going to be all “bleh…bleh…blarrrrrggg…” and want to drown yourself in still more caffeine. But you power through and whip that thing into shape, no problem. Send it to CPs. Revise according to their notes. Get it in the hands of some betas. They say it’s looking pretty good. You decide you can do better. You do a rewrite or another overhaul. Send to more betas. Let it sit for awhile. Implement more little tweaks. Read through it and, scared as you are, it just might be ready.

I’m fairly certain those who have an agent can just idly peruse this post with a bemused expression, because I’m pretty sure you’d have already sent in that third draft or what-not to your agent. This is that last, crazy madhouse revision that you absolutely MUST do if you are self-publishing. And of course, this can fall anywhere in your process, however it works for you. It just needs to happen after you’ve gotten a considerable amount of notes and implemented them. After your story is rock solid. After your character arcs are all in place and any unnecessary scenes have been trimmed. This is your last swoosh before line edits. (And yes! I’m doing a post on line edits next week.)

First, make sure your mood is right for this. You need to be confident in your story and know where it’s going. You’re almost done! This is exciting. If you’re depressed or having an off day, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT hack up your manuscript. Stay the heck away. You need to be in your best zone to do this. Maybe even knock it out in one lovely day with no other responsibilities so that you can feel empowered with it. I like to print off my whole manuscript and do this last revision with a pen, because after I’ve done it all on paper, then I have a moment to check myself as I do it in the document. And always, always save an old version before you get ruthless.

All right. Time for the nitty gritty. What you’re looking for:

Scenes that end too soon. Do they end strong? Do they give enough information? Is there mystery? Do they keep us reading forward? Check every single scene. Double check. If there’s even the slightest feeling that it’s weak, fix it. This might mean you need to move endings to the beginning of next scenes or move beginnings of scenes backward into the one before it. That’s okay. If it needs to happen, do it.

Scenes that are too long. This is something I do too much. I keep my characters rambling forward just a paragraph too long, because I think the reader needs to know something–but they would probably be much more interested if I just let them discover it. Cut, cut, cut those endings. Save them all in a file in case your line editor sees something missing and you need to recover some nuggets, but for the most part, those things need to be gone. Don’t cry. It’s okay.

Unnecessary dialogue. I’m a huge fan of using dialogue to tell the reader things instead of putting it in the narrative. Of course, you’ll already have eliminated places where the dialogue feels unnatural or wrong, but keep an eye out where it’s still lurking. (This stuff lurks and lurks.) Dialogue needs to feel real, and that could mean they talk about soap monsters once in awhile, but make sure it’s all necessary to character development and every bit of it is driving us forward.

Unnecessary description. Likewise, I find myself with whole paragraphs that don’t have much to do with the story, I just…I just…couldn’t part with them. You have to be cruel to these lovelies. No one is going to do it for you. If it hasn’t made one of your CPs dance with happiness, if it bugs you on bad days, if you catch yourself skimming over it because it’s boring…it needs to go. Get it out of there.

Anything that interrupts the flow. Anything, anything, anything at all. Characters introduced in a weird way. Info-dumps that may have been missed because they’re actually only a sentence long but gosh-darn-it, they’re still an info-dump. Imagine your book in it’s final, formatted state. Do you have a segway for everything? Do the chapter titles make sense? If the book is in parts, do the parts work together? Scratch things out. Move paragraphs. You’re invincible. Go go go!

As the publisher, you don’t have loads of professionals sifting through this. If you have a line editor and a copyeditor (and you better have a copyeditor), assume they don’t exist, because there will still be plenty for them to catch. At this juncture, it’s just you, baby. You and your utter, cold-hearted ruthless pen. Slice, dice, toss, reword, rethink, rearrange until that thing looks like a freaking bestseller. And you know what that means?

Wheeee! You’re ready for the scary land of line edits! YOU DID THIS THING!!!

–Rachel O’Laughlin

 

Book Review: The False Prince August 28, 2013

Hello There and Draft Again Readers!

Today I’m bringing you my personal review of The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen. (SPOILER ALERT: I LOVED it).

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Without giving too much away, the plot centers around a boy by the name of Sage. He has lived in and out of orphanages for the past four years, until he is picked off the streets by a noble man named of Connor. Sage, along with three other boys, must compete with one another to become lords and viable options for the now vacant throne of their kingdom.

Sounds like your basic rags to riches story, right? It was the main reason I didn’t pick it up at first. I passed by it at least ten times in the store, reading the back and putting it back down because I thought it was basically The Hunger Games with less kids and no killing. Boy, was I wrong. I eventually broke down and bought it and I’m really glad I did. The story has a really tight narrative and although it doesn’t have the heart-pound tension of The Hunger Games, there is something about it that makes it nearly impossible to put down. Almost a nagging sort of mystery where you just have to find out what happens next. Sage is a unique character, constantly fighting back against Connor’s plan while seeming oddly in front of  him at every turn. A plot point in the novel I thought was just the author letting herself soak into the character. I was wrong about that as well. There is a very real reason behind why Sage knows so much and it was a twist I didn’t see coming at all.

moriarty___surprise_face___gif_by_talichibi-d4rwq08I will forewarn all who like romance in their stories that this one has nearly none. There is a potential relationship set up for the second or third book in the series, but nothing happens other than a couple conversation with zero romantic overtones. I will also forewarn you that there is a break in the first person narrative where the story goes into third person. I don’t feel that particular chapter had to be done in third person, I believe it could’ve kept with the first person narrative and still been successful in its goal of informing the reader. That particular chapter is the reason I am not giving the book a perfect five out of five stars. It really threw me out of the reading groove I had going on, and you never ruin a readers groove.

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Overall I give this novel a 4.5/5.0!

Goodreads gives it a 4.2/5.0

I deem it a great example of a epic fantasy without wars or magic. If that’s the kind of book you are thinking about writing or have written, read this one! It could prove to be a great comp title for you.

Happy Reading Everyone!

Jessica

 

Self-Publishing: Why and How August 17, 2013

Filed under: Publishing — thereanddraftagain @ 9:12 pm
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Hi there my wonderful There and Draft Again folks!

I’ve been quite busy with a blog tour, beginning August 5 and ending yesterday, August 16. I have to say, it’s been a wild two weeks. For those of you who aren’t sure what the whole blog tour buzz is all about, it’s pretty much a stampede of guest blog stops (all penned by yours truly) for the sole purpose of getting the word out about my book. And there’s nothing I, as a writer of fiction, would like to avoid more.

The trouble is, that’s not the kind of writing I’m good at. If I wanted to talk about real life, I’d write non-fiction. I’d be a journalist. I’d compose how-to manuals and advertising copy. This is SO NOT my thing. For the Coldness of Marek Blog Tour, I had to set aside four weeks of writing time. Which is just ridiculous. I mean, I can write a whole novel draft in four weeks. Why all this time for a blog tour? Well, probably because I spent hours tapping at my keyboard, only to backspace every word. I pretty much looked like this:

And at the end of the day I had nothing to show for it. I just checked my stats, and apparently I wrote 15k in blog tour material. That’s nothing. That’s piddly. That is me being terribly inefficient. Not to mention all of my friends’ manuscripts that were piling up, waiting to be critiqued/read/loved. To round it all out, our fearless There and Draft Again leader, EM Castellan, asked me to write a post about self-publishing.  I was all, yeah, okay! But inside I was thinking, um, this is the first time I’ve ever done this. I have nothing to say about self-publishing.

Well, after 15k in blog tour posts, I’ve discovered that actually, I do. I have a lot to say. So listen up, anyone interested in self-publishing — or interested in raising an eyebrow or two about self-publishing — here’s my mighty rundown. Ready? Go.

First, don’t judge. If you set out to self-publish, do it for the right reasons. Don’t do it because you’re bitter about not getting a traditional deal. Don’t do it to show the world you’re better than them. Don’t do it because you think you work harder than agented writers and you think you should earn more of your profits. That’s all just stupid-face talking. Do it because you have sound, positive reasons for believing this is the right direction for your book — and one of those reasons should be because you love stories and love sharing them.

My reasons were: I honestly couldn’t sit down and tell you my entire plan for this three (four?) book series. I don’t have an entire plan. I have a tentative plan. An agent needs to be able to know exactly what you’re planning to put into your career so that s/he can help you get what you need out of it. I didn’t want that type of give/take. I wanted to go it alone, at an even pace with an evolving plan. I wanted to get to know each of my readers, like a street musician does.

Second, go about it the right way. Make sure you ask for help from the right people. Everything is pretty much up to you, but the one important ingredient that everyone MUST HAVE is an editor who knows what they’re doing. Get one. Get one you can trust to call you out on your shiz. Get them yesterday.

My “right way” was comprised of:

My wonderful critique partner who doubled as my line editor, who knew my story inside and outside and who fielded my freak-out texts as well.

An incredible professional editor who (did NOT field my freak-out texts because that is NOT her job. Do not abuse your editor) cut all the last stupid and lame and dumb lines from my story…oh, and also fixed the grammar, too.

An artist friend who was willing to do cover art for me.

A street team comprised of a handful of volunteer heroes who loved me and/or my writing and were willing to yell about it before they even had ARCs, because they’re loyal and golden and the salt of the earth.

A hundred dollars worth of cute swag to give away.

Advanced reading copies of my book to send to reviewers.

And…that’s all.

Third, be yourself. Don’t sweat over trying to sound like all the other authors you’ve heard interviewed. Don’t put other authors down to try to make yourself look better. Be humble and straightforward, be professional and talk about the things you’re knowledgeable about. Just let it flow.

Being myself required: Checking my assumptions at the door. I couldn’t assume anything about what I would accomplish with my book release, how people would view my writing, and where I would be after a few weeks of being out there in the market. I had to be wide-eyed and fresh, and open up as if I was meeting new people at preschool. I had to stare loads of my insecurities in the face and tell them to stand down. It was scary and crazy, but it all worked out pretty well, and once I settled into it, there was actually some pretty fun stuff that happened.

Fourth, be grateful. Be grateful to everyone who bought it. Be grateful to everyone who got your novel ready for market, who made it look pretty and polished your prose. Be grateful to everyone who reviewed it. Be grateful to everyone on your street team, cover reveal, and blog tour. Be grateful to everyone who talked about it to their friends and on social media. Be grateful for the traditional platform that produced books for centuries to kindle the love of literature that now allows you to sell your book to readers everywhere. Be grateful for an economy that is able to support self-published authors.

I’m grateful to: Rebecca Weston, Darci Cole, Amanda Aszman, M. Andrew Patterson, Michelle Roberts, H.E. Griffin, Steve Knapp, E.M. Castellan, Joshua David Bellin, Lauren Garafalo, Lucy Hershbine, Serena Lawless, Kathi L. Schwengel, Mara Valderran, Beau Barnett, Nazarea Andrews, Amanda Olivieri, Bill Murphy, Chris Prickitt, Steve Chiasson, Uwe Kruger, Jens Kruger, Andrea Hannah, Leigh Ann Kopans, Dahlia Adler, my friends, family, husband and children.

And I’m grateful for you, lovely reader. Thank you for indulging me and reading a little post about my journey. I appreciate the time it takes for you to read and I hope you enjoyed.

— Rachel O’Laughlin

 

Killer New Fantasy Series? August 14, 2013

Patrick Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicle is to be a television series. Or at least last month Deadline reported it has been optioned by New Regency Productions and 20th Century Fox television as a drama series.

As a huge fan of Patrick Rothfuss, I was initially ecstatic. The Name of the Wind and Wise Man’s Fear are right up there with my all time favourite epic fantasy novels. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. NPR books 2011 poll of Top 100 Science Fiction, Fantasy Books had Rothfuss at number 18, a considerable feat for a relatively new author in a list full of classics and established Sci/Fi and Fantasy writers.

With visions of a Game of Thrones type adaptation, I couldn’t wait to see who they cast as Kvothe, the stunningly gifted and brilliantly drawn protagonist. I was also looking forward to seeing the world brought to life – a world Rothfuss portrayed with such depth and detail in the books.

But that was when it all started to unravel somewhat, at least in my mind. Because the books are big, full of nuance and attention to detail, and the story, told by Kvothe in the book is essentially his life story. Would it translate well to screen and still retain the intimacy and magic of the books?

Not withstanding budgets, timeslots and ratings requirements, could it ever live up to reader (my)  expectations?

I have no idea. At this stage it looks like Eric Heisserer (Hours, The Thing) is set to adapt the series and will be the executive producer – so here’s hoping he has a vision. Because with two huge books and the final instalment, The Doors of Stone, due out in 2014, he has a lot of material to work with.

And it’s true I still can’t quite forget what happened to Firefly on Fox’s watch. (Screened out of order and cancelled after one season!) Could my fan-girl heart trust them again?

Or what happened when Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series became The Legend of the Seeker for the small screen – and the story was changed so much there was no hope it would ever follow the books.

At least the HBO adaptation of Game of Thrones has shown how it can be done, and with a slew of big budget fantasy movies doing well, perhaps we’ll see more high-quality fantasy television series being made?

– by Raewyn Hewitt

 

Trilogies, Chronicles and Sagas. Why Fantasy Goes On and On… May 25, 2013

   by Raewyn Hewitt

A friend of mine once said she didn’t read fantasy because the books looked like doorstops. Too many words, too much detail to keep straight and if there was a story in there, it was either too hard to find or it never ended. Ouch.

Although I’m the first to admit everyone has their own taste in reading material, she did have a point about the length of fantasy tomes. They often stretch across multiple volumes (just check out the recommended reading on this site), can finish at the most unsatisfactory places and occasionally fail to deliver on over-heightened reader expectations.

So what’s the deal?

The Realities of World Building:

I naively thought building your own fantasy world would be easier than researching a real world location. After all who is there to contradict you? Until I started building my own fantasy world and realised it was much harder than I’d previously imagined. Because although your reader will suspend disbelief to a degree, your world needs to be both believable and consistent.

If you have magic, it needs to have its own set of rules. Cultural diversity is complicated – especially when dealing with non-human cultures.  And don’t get me started on the rules of geography. Rivers flow down to the sea, certain types of harbours are suitable for ports and settlements and towns follow a sort of logic. Just thinking about the first map I drew (just to keep locations straight) still makes me twitch.

The challenge for the fantasy writer is once you’ve worked out the kinks in your created realm, you need to deliver it in such a way that your reader can grasp it and still be pulled into the story. If your story world is complicated this can take time to build up the layers and keep the readers hooked. But if you pull it off, the reader will be invested and may be prepared to take the long journey with you as you explore this brave new world through story.

And, after such a great investment in world building, who wouldn’t want to mine that world for as much story gold as possible.

The Big Picture:

Epic fantasy is, by definition, big. The stories are often greater than the fate of one person, nations or even worlds can be at stake and the very scope of the problem doesn’t lend itself to a quick fix. However when there isn’t an obvious place to stop, practical publishing considerations call for artificial breaks. As a reader I’ve on occasion howled at frustration at where a story is finished; but as a writer I am much more sympathetic. Tad Williams gave an eloquent response to similar criticism aimed at his own books:

I’ve received an awful lot of mail, electronic and old-fashioned-with-a-stamp both, about the first OTHERLAND volume. Most, I’m pleased to say, has been extremely nice and very favorable. The only note of discomfort has been from some readers who were upset by what they felt was the “cliffhanger” nature of the first volume’s ending.

I understand and apologize. However, the problem with writing this kind of story is that it’s not really a series—it’s one very, very long novel, which should be under one cover except that 1) it would take so long to write that my family and pets would starve, and 2) they couldn’t make covers that size, unless they were adapted from circus tents. That means I have a difficult choice to make: end each part in more abrupt fashion than some readers find ideal, or create artificial endings for each volume which I believe would change the overall shape of the book, and perhaps even adversely affect the structure of the story.

Thus, I can only ask for the indulgence of kind readers. I’ll do the best job I can not to end volumes in mid-sentence—”And then she discovered she was . . . oops, The End”—but please understand that what you’re getting is a part of a larger work, and may reflect that. I’ll still do the best I can to find some kind of closure for each individual volume.

He makes a good case for all fantasy writers!

I for one am the kind of person that gets a special kind of shivers when my newest fantasy purchase could also be used for resistance training. Content in the knowledge that when that new Patrick Rothfuss novel comes out it will certainly be no slim volume, but a hefty great serving of his extraordinary story-telling skills.

How about you? Are you writing a trilogy? A series? A saga? Does your story (and world) just seem to grow and grow the more you write it? Do you love long books?