Tag Archives: Dragons At Dawn

Where to Begin?

I have an idea.

I started working out the details of the setting for my story. It’s important to know something about their world so the characters have a background to work in.

I have identified most of the major characters and given them a place in the world.

Now I need to take all of this and plan it out so that my idea, characters, and setting turn into a solid story. That’s not as easy as it sounds.

The first problem is that the setting for my story is a little overwhelming. My last post gave some of the details of that world, and if you read it all the way through you are probably as depressed as I am about the current political situation in the United States. I’m not sure how I am going to be able to make it through the next six weeks before the election on November 6. The only comfort I have is that, based on the polls, Romney really doesn’t stand a chance of winning. But then, elections have been bought before. Just look at the results of Scott Walker’s recall election for proof of that one. I’m also still convinced that George Bush rigged both of his election victories.

Another problem is that I am using characters from stories I have already written. This story is kind of a new spin on my first NaNoWriMo project, with the addition of the main characters from my two Valkyrie novels. The main character from my first book, however, will be a bit different from the way he was originally portrayed, and the story itself will be a lot different.

Since I am using the main characters of three of my previous novels, I want to give each of them a chance to shine in this one. So I will need to figure out how to switch between character viewpoints as I write. The book I just finished used multiple character viewpoints, but I don’t think I did it very well. I’m hoping that with a little more planning I’ll be able to do a better job of it this time. I’m thinking of switching viewpoints between chapters, and with a little preparation I’ll be able to plan each of my chapters in advance and decide which character will be the focus of each point of the story.

The last problem I have is figuring out how to present my idea as a solid story with a plot that people will be able to follow. Right now my idea is solely a civil war to reclaim the country from the dark forces that have taken over the Republican party and stolen the last election. That’s a pretty vague idea. What I really need to do is figure out how my characters fit into this idea. I need to figure out where they are when the story starts, what pulls them into the rebellion, how they manage to win in the end, and most importantly, what vital parts of their personality are revealed and change over the course of the story.

Because it’s really all about the characters, right?

Seriously, while I honestly think that the Republican party has recently become not just a bad idea, but an active evil that needs to be stopped, I don’t want this story to just be my own little political rant. I’m not here to get up on my soapbox and scream my beliefs to the world. I’m here to tell an entertaining story, and hope that my readers learn a little bit about both themselves and the world they live in by the time they reach the end. And hopefully what they learn will help to make this world a better place for all of us.

I don’t have a lot done yet. I think I may need to re-read my previous stories, if only to get some of the names and character details straight. I’m still mulling over how I’m going to start. I’m watching some dystopian movies for ideas. I just finished watching Soylent Green, which was eye-opening for me. It’s actually a fairly good representation of the world I think we are headed for if the Republicans take control. High unemployment, people living in the streets, crime is rampant even among the police, women are treated as “furniture”, and the big corporations can do anything they want because they are in charge of it all.

As always, I appreciate any comments you might have for me. What is your favorite dystopian movie? Leave a note about it and I’ll see if I can find a copy to add to my viewing list before November 1. And check in again on Wednesday for another update.

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I’m Done. What’s Next?

As you can tell by the title of this post, I finished my story. It came in at just over 61,000 words, so I hit my goal for the story as well as my goal to finish by the end of September. And now it goes into a drawer for a few months or years until I can stand to look at it again enough to edit it.

So my next project is getting ready for NaNoWriMo. As you may recall, it’s going to be about the next civil war in America. I’m bringing back George from my first NaNoWriMo project, Dragons at Dawn, as well as Miranda and Nicole from my Valkyrie series. They will be teaming up to save America from the demonic forces that have taken over.

Part of my process is figuring out how bad things have to get before somebody has to step up and do something about it. So I have been taking a long, hard look at the Republican agenda and have posited some worst-case scenarios for what would happen if they win in November. As you might guess, I am fiercely opposed to practically all of their party platform, and I will proudly vote for Obama (again!) on November 6.

Here’s what I came up with. Forgive the rambling nature. These are just thoughts I jotted down as I perused a list of the goals of the GOP.

The United States is a democracy in name only. The corporations had taken over by buying all elections, and profit rules the country. People are treated like slaves, especially women. There is no longer any social safety net, and most Americans have lost any retirement savings they had. Elderly are either forced to work, or they live on the street. Children are forced to find jobs to help their families survive, and public schools have all been shut down, leaving education solely for the rich elite.

Unemployment is at a record high, leaving at least a third of the country out of work, while millions of American jobs have been outsourced to other countries. Unemployment insurance has been eliminated, leaving people destitute within days if they lose their job. Anyone lucky enough to find employment is desperate to keep it, making themselves virtually slaves to their employers.

Health care is only available to the rich, while the majority of the country is forced to either purchase expensive medication or buy on the black market. People are dying of diseases that were thought to have been wiped out decades ago, and there are rumors of plague.

Taxes on the people who do have jobs take half their income, and most of that money goes to bailouts and handouts to the richest people. The country has a state religion, with mandatory attendance for everyone except the rich, who profess belief but don’t conform to the practice.

Women and homosexuals are targets wherever they are found alone, with beatings and rape common and never investigated. If women are lucky enough to find jobs, they are paid a small fraction of their male counterparts and are often required to perform sexual acts to keep their positions.

Clean energy research is a thing of the past, and companies ravage the countryside with no concern for the environment as they look for more fossil fuels, even though the demand in the United States has dropped drastically, since most people can no longer afford a car. Bicycles and walking is the most common mode of transportation, since even public transportation has gotten to be too expensive for most people to afford.

Guns are common, and most of the wealthy employ private armies labeled as security forces to protect themselves. These forces are staffed mainly by the poor who enlisted in the army in an attempt to better their lives. Once they are discharged the only employment they can find is in these security teams, with the best going to the police. The police forces have been privatized. Their staff has been drastically reduced, and only patrol the wealthiest parts of the country. Everywhere else crime runs rampant. Fire departments have also been privatized, and again, they are only called out to protect business property and wealthy homes, leaving the slums which cover most of the cities to burn if a fire breaks out.

The divorce rate is down since single parenthood is illegal. Many women are forced to marry if they get pregnant, even in the case of rape, since abortion is also illegal. And since contraceptives that used to be provided by organizations like Planned Parenthood are no longer available, and sex education is no longer taught in schools, unwanted pregnancies have increased.

In short, the superpower that used to be the United States of America is now a third world country, despised and ridiculed by most of the world. Canada and Mexico now guard their borders to keep Americans from crossing into their countries illegally, and most people can’t afford the bribes and fees that are charged in order to get a passport.

That’s it. That’s what I think might happen if the Republicans are in power. Pretty scary stuff. Then you throw in some demons and Valkyries and you get a downright horrific mess. Ready for more? Here’s an overview, showcasing some of the different groups involved in the story:

The country is ruled by the richest people, who have all formed an alliance with demonic forces. The demons used their powers to take over the country for the rich, but now they are getting bored and have been going out into the world more and more frequently to wreak havoc.

The rich people are losing control over the demons, and are starting to get worried, but they are trapped in the lives they created for themselves. Some of their children are starting to rebel against their parents and supporting the common people.

The Valkyries and other supernatural enforcers are having trouble keeping the increasing numbers of demons from revealing the magical world. The influx of demonic power has also increased the number of human wizards and priests who are discovering how to use magic on their own.

There are also increasing numbers of people joining gangs, and many gangs are fomenting revolution. They are heavily armed and pissed off, with nothing to lose.

In short, the country is about to break wide open in civil war.

Those are my preliminary ideas. Now I need to start figuring out how to tell this story. I’ll need to decide how each of my characters is involved in this mess and what they are going to do to get us all out of it. I’ll also need to come up with a good antagonist. They will need someone to fight with. Someone who has been behind the scenes, planning this whole thing for his own sadistic pleasure. I can’t use Mitt Romney, because despite how hard he tries, I just don’t think he is evil enough for the part.

That’s it for today. I’ll be back on Sunday with another update. See you then!

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Filed under NaNoWriMo, Politics, ROW80, The Writing Experience

Short update

I’m not feeling up to a long post today, so I’ll just hit some highlights:

I hit 40,000 words yesterday, which was my goal for August. That means that any more writing I do this month will just be getting me that much farther ahead for September. I’m not sure if the story is going to make it to 60,000 words, but at least it will definitely be finished by the end of this ROW80 round.

I’m also starting to think of what to do for NaNoWriMo. I have a couple of co-workers that I discuss politics with each morning, and I have been telling them that if the Republicans get their way, either the country will fall apart, or we will have another civil war. I am firmly in the Obama camp for the upcoming election, because everything that I know about the Republican platform shows me that they are only out to serve their corporate masters and they will screw the rest of the country to get it done.

Regardless of whatever your political leanings are, the reason I mention it is that I made a comment a week or so back to one of my co-workers that I thought maybe the next story I write should be about the next American civil war/revolution. So that thought has been percolating in the back of my head for a while and I had an idea of how I could take the idea from my first NaNoWriMo story along  with the characters from my Valkyrie series and use them to write something that puts all of it into one place. So here’s a short blurb about the plan:

The country is going to hell. Literally. The Republicans won the election through demonology, and now that they are in power, the demons are getting restless. They break free of their masters and start wreaking havoc. The Valkyries have to step in and try to stop them, but they find that they can’t do it alone. They find a man who has discovered an ancient race of dragons and managed to learn some of their magic and is now teaching it to others. Together, the dragon wizards and the Valkyries take back the country by destroying the demons and the evil men that initially summoned them.

There’s not a whole lot there right now, just a premise and an ending. Now I have to start plotting out all the fine points that go in between. I also want to do a lot of work on the character arcs before I start writing as well. Since I have already written these characters, I have a pretty good idea of what they are like, so there won’t be any discovery writing for this story.

The last thing I wanted to say was THANK YOU to everyone that commented on my last post regarding editing ideas for my superpower story. Feel free to comment on my new idea as well.

That’s about it for today. Not as short as it could have been, but shorter than normal for me. See you again on Wednesday!

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August 25 – Working the Story

Revisions, revisions, revisions….

Editing is tough. Taking your first draft and covering it in enough red ink to make it look like a low-budget horror movie isn’t for the faint of heart. You have to look at the story in many different ways.

What are the strengths of the plot? Are there any weak points that need to be strengthened? Are there any pieces that don’t need to be there at all?

Does the character development flow throughout the piece? What do they learn at the end?

Is there enough tension throughout the story? Are there any parts that are too slow or feel boring?

What about the little things? How is the spelling? Are there any words missing? Are there any words repeated close together? How about punctuation and grammar?

These (and more) are all things that need to be reviewed when you are editing. I meet with a critique group every week. We read our stories out loud while the others read along. When we finish, they give feedback, which the author can use to answer some of those questions.

This week I read my “final” version of my story to the group. They all agreed that it was much better than the previous versions, but that didn’t mean they didn’t have suggestions. I still came away with comments on every page of the manuscript. So now I can take those ideas and work the story one last time before I submit it.

And yes, I do mean ONE last time. Editing always has a point of diminishing returns. Most authors probably think that even published works could use another pass or two of editing. I have heard comments from several famous writers that they wish they could tweak their story just a little bit more.

But sometimes you just have to say “enough is enough”. Sometimes that is when you hit your deadline. Sometimes it is when you just can’t stand to look at the story anymore. My published story, “Losing Control”, was submitted on the day of the deadline. This story, “The Hunt”, still has a month to go before the deadline, but I am getting tired of looking at it. So I am giving myself one last chance to make it better before sending it off into the world. And if it comes back to me with a rejection slip I will think about tweaking it again before sending it somewhere else.

Some authors like the editing process. Some hate it. As for myself, I think I’m kind of in the middle. I like the way the story grows stronger as I edit, but it is a lot of hard work that I wish I didn’t have to do. And I’m not a good enough writer to be able to make the first draft worthy of being the final draft. Yet.

So good luck with your editing! I’m going to try to finish mine this weekend, and then I have to figure out what my next project will be. I’m thinking that I should either start editing my Dragons At Dawn book again, or start figuring out what I am going to be writing for this year’s NaNoWriMo. Let me know if you are going to be participating in NaNoWriMo this year and I’ll be your writing buddy. We can give each other encouragement while we pound away at the keyboard and overdose on coffee shops and late night word sprints.

See you Monday!

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August 22 – Another Story Down

This weekend I finally finished my short story. I had an epiphany on Friday. I remembered that the story was set in the world of my NaNoWriMo story from last year, where a man learns magic from dragons to save the world from a demon invasion. That meant that I had a way for my character to escape from the demon. I could use some of the work that I had done developing my world in my first story to help me with my new one. Once I figured that out, all I had to do was figure out what part of my earlier story applied in my new one.

Another thing I realized is that my character needed to be more affected by what had happened. She had caused the death of her partner. Even though they were always fighting, they had been together so long that they might as well have been friends. The problem was that she needed to admit that to herself. She needed to let herself feel all the pain that the events in the story had caused. I needed to work more on character development. I needed to let her open up to the reader and show how she felt.

So I started with another revision (of course). I opened with her falling apart with the demon pounding on the door. Then I flashed back to the hunt. I made her directly responsible for the death of her friend. Then I started working on bringing out the magic.

In my dragon story the idea was that when a dragon breathed fire on a person that had magical ability, they burned away all the dross that kept them from being able to use their magic. I decided that the terrible events that had happened to my character in this short story had the same effect. They stripped away everything that mattered to her, leaving nothing left to block the magic from coming out. She was left with one thought in the midst of her depression: that she was NOT going to let this happen to the rest of her people.

The magic came out, she destroyed the demon, and she went home. The end.

It reads a bit better than that, but you get the idea. I focused on character, and used what I had learned about the world in my other story to finish this one.

I like it, and I know where I am going to submit it. It’s a little anthology being done by FableCroft, a company out of Australia. The project is called Apocalypse Hope, and submissions close September 30. They pay AUD$50 (anyone know how much that is in US$?) and a copy of the book. There may also be further royalties for e-book sales.

And if they don’t want it, I’ll send it out to someone else. Like I said, I like the story, and I think it is worth publishing somewhere. I can always put it out myself as a 99¢ e-book if I want to. It’s just under 4000 words.

My plan is to run it past my critique group one more time tomorrow night, make some final revisions, and send it out. If the editor likes it I will post the news here first. Wish me luck and I’ll see you on Thursday!

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ROW80 Update June 19 – Endings and Beginnings

Goals:

  1. Spend at least half an hour every day on writing or editing, an hour on weekends
  2. Finish planning the rewrites of my three works in progress
  3. Post to my blog on the ROW80 update days (Sunday and Wednesday)
  4. Read at least one of my books on writing every week

We are wrapping up this round of ROW80, and I am sorry to say that I am relieved to have it over. I think it helped me to keep focused on my writing, but for the last few weeks I have also felt that I needed a break. I have been meeting my goals most of the time, but still felt like I wasn’t making any progress. And I think that posting my status twice a week has been really boring for anyone following my blog.

I don’t think I will be participating in ROW80 for the next round. I have some ideas of what I want to do with my blog instead, including posting serious articles related to the research I am doing for my books, more blogs about things I am learning about the writing craft, and of course I will keep you all posted on my progress toward becoming a published author.

I just finished my “final” edits on my short story. I got it down to just over 3,000 words, so it is now right about where I want it for the submission guideline. I’m going to run it past my critique group on Tuesday, then I’ll send it in. It will be my first professional submission!

I am excited and anxious about sending it out. I know that odds are it will be rejected, and I would be OK with that, but I’m not as thick-skinned as I want people to think. Rejection sucks. Nobody wants to be told they’re not good enough. But if it comes back with a “No thank you” letter, I’ll just have to remember that they aren’t the only market out there, and send it out to someone else. Sooner or later someone will want it. Or maybe I’ll tell more of the story, build it up to 10,000 words or so and put it up on Kindle for 99¢. Whatever happens, I think it is a good story and I will share it with the world somehow.

I am rethinking my idea about posting my Dragons at Dawn trilogy as on this blog. I just finished reading Kristen Lamb‘s book WE ARE NOT ALONE: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media (great book!), and she advises against posting books online. I haven’t made a final decision yet, but I do think that I want to post some writing samples online eventually. I wrote a short story for my Finding Valhalla book that tells how my heroine got to be a Valkyrie. Maybe I’ll share that, along with other “just for fun” short stories that I write along the way. And when I get enough I can compile them into an e-book and maybe make some money off them.

Thanks for sticking with me. See you on Wednesday!

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ROW80 Update June 15 – Editing sucks

Goals:

  1. Spend at least half an hour every day on writing or editing, an hour on weekends
  2. Finish planning the rewrites of my three works in progress
  3. Post to my blog on the ROW80 update days (Sunday and Wednesday)
  4. Read at least one of my books on writing every week

I’m almost done with my first pass of editing my bizarro short story. It wasn’t easy. I did manage to strip out about 400 words, but that is still almost 500 words over the submission guideline. They said that they will accept longer works, but they won’t pay for the extra words.  I’ll probably run through it again before submitting to see if I can trim it down some more.

I am still thinking about posting my Dragons at Dawn trilogy as regular posts on this blog, but I don’t want to just throw the first draft at people. You would read it and think “This sucks! I can’t believe this guy thinks he is a writer! I’m never going to buy anything from this guy!”

So I am going to try to write enough of the story to have a good idea of where I am going with it and then run it through some edits before posting anything. I am thinking that it may also be better to post monthly instead of weekly, to give me more time to write and edit. I’ll keep you posted.

Check back on Sunday for more!

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ROW80 Update June 12 – Trying to keep up

Goals:

  1. Spend at least half an hour every day on writing or editing, an hour on weekends
  2. Finish planning the rewrites of my three works in progress
  3. Post to my blog on the ROW80 update days (Sunday and Wednesday)
  4. Read at least one of my books on writing every week

I’m still working on my edits. I didn’t get a lot done yesterday, and I decided I needed to spend more time reading than writing today, so I didn’t do any work on any of my books today. I thought about it though, does that count?

Seriously, I have been thinking about finishing this ROW80 round and not signing up for the next one. It seems that the only posts I do on my blog are about my progress, and I wanted to do more with this thing. I’ll still try to post twice a week, but I think the posts will be more meaningful if I’m not focused on simply providing a status report. I have also thought about posting some of my writing. Maybe I’ll do an online novel, chapter by chapter. What do you think about that? Would you like to read my Dragons at Dawn trilogy online?

I have been working through my short story, and am about a third of the way through it. I’ll be back with another update on Wednesday. See you then.

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Finding a Critique Partner

So what do you do when you have finished your story? The obvious thing is to get someone to read it, right?

I just finished my second story, Finding Valhalla. I wrote it as what I thought would be a paranormal romance. The story is about a Valkyrie. She is the equivalent of a supernatural cop, and it is her duty to keep the paranormal world from becoming a problem for the mortals. A killer is stalking the city of Madison, and she needs to find it and deal with it before the body count gets too high. There is also the theft of a very valuable necklace that complicates things even more. The problem is that she doesn’t have any clues and she keeps getting distracted by a mortal man. She finds herself attracted to him and wants to open up about what she really does for a living, but fears that it will be too much and he will get hurt, or even killed. How can she deal with all of this when all she really wants is to have a normal love life?

When I finished my first story, Dragons At Dawn, I passed it around to a bunch of my friends and family. Most of them read it and said they thought the story was pretty good. The writing needed work, but the idea is pretty solid. I’m working on editing that story now.

I am planning on giving my family first crack at my new story as well, but I thought I would also see if anyone with a little more experience might be willing to take on a new writer as a critique partner. I don’t have much experience in writing, and I have no misconceptions about the quality of my work. I know that my stories are going to need a lot of editing before they will be worth publishing. But as they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

So, if you are willing to read through an amateur’s attempt at a paranormal romance and provide some much-needed constructive criticism, I would really appreciate it. Just leave a comment below and I will e-mail you a link to a Dropbox shared folder where you can find the PDF file of the first draft.

The rest of you will just have to wait for the finished version. 😉

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Editing

It’s time for me to start editing my NaNoWriMo project, Dragons At Dawn. I have put it off until now on purpose, because I wanted to get some distance from the first draft. It has been two months now since I wrote it so hopefully I’ll be able to look at it more objectively. I have also been thinking about it a bit over the last two months, and I think I know how the story can be improved. It is also one of my ROW80 goals and we’re already past day 30 so I had better get started.

This is my first attempt at editing. I’m not really sure what to do, so I’m kind of making it up as I go along. Here are some of the things that I have done or am planning to do.

  • Ask other people to read the story and critique it. Done. I have given the story to most of my family as well as four friends. Most of them liked the story, and at least one of them had some worthwhile criticism that I can use to improve certain scenes. Other comments were on my writing style, and will be useful to help me improve my craft.
  • Break down the story. In process. I have started a new Scrivener project and copied the first draft into it. I had previously broken down the story into chapters. They are now organized into individual days and I will go from there to break out each individual scene.
  • Describe the scenes. To do. Once the scenes are sorted I will go through each one and make notes about what each scene is about, what characters are involved, and the setting.
  • Break down the plot and subplots. To do. Once I have a better picture of the individual scenes I should be able to examine the main plot and fill any holes. The same applies for any subplots.
  • Trim the fat and fill the gaps. To do. After I dissect the scenes and plots I should be able to identify which scenes aren’t needed and what holes need to be plugged. I can cut the scenes that don’t work and plan new scenes where necessary.
  • Flesh out the characters. To do. Once I have identified all the characters in the story I want to go through and make detailed notes about each of the characters, describing not only their physical traits but their personalities as well. This will make it easier for me to bring them to life for the reader.
  • Detail the settings. To do. As with the characters, I need to bring more detail to the settings. Once again, this will make it easier for the reader to lose themselves in my world.
  • Edit each scene. To do. I will need to go over every scene individually and rewrite it as needed. I will use the notes I have made on the plots, characters, and settings to add detail and description to each scene. I am guessing that I should add at least 20,000 words before I finish. Possibly more.

So that’s what I have planned. Please comment with any tips you have on editing. I am especially interested in knowing if you have any books on the subject that you recommend. Wish me luck!

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