Using a Blurb to Shape Your Novel

8 Dec

When I finished the first draft of the final version of TEROH that I’m sharing with beta readers now, I decided to write a blurb (a short, intriguing description) about it. Since then, I’ve edited it countless times as I seek to balance how I want readers to view my novel along with their actual perceptions of the story they end up reading. It’s not so much the plot that changes in the blurb so much as how I pitch it.

There are so many ways to turn a thought or phrase, and each way holds a slightly different meaning.

This also pertains to the other novels I’m planning for my series. Unlike TEROH, I’m actually starting with a preliminary blurb before developing the novels themselves. (I’ve talked a bit about this before as well as how I’m using music playlists to shape the direction that my stories will take.) Looking back on my process for TEROH, I think there are some advantages to doing this. Continue reading

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I’ve Got Something to Say: Why TEROH is Not My First Draft (or Novel)

17 Nov

I don’t think this is clear to people who haven’t been following me for very long, but the version of The Elementalist: Rise of Hara (TEROH) that I sent out to my beta readers recently—as many flaws as it still maintains—is actually not my first draft. Technically, it’s not even my first novel.

Granted, I still have a good amount of work to do on the manuscript, not having consulted outside eyes until I felt I had a solid understanding of the story’s soul, but the point I want to make is that this novel (and the series it continues to spawn) has not only seen several rebirths of its most basic concept; it’s also seen numerous cycles of development to a minute level of detail, which has allowed my subconscious brain to make connections between my ideas in ways that wouldn’t have been possible if I’d only spent one or two years on this project.

There are several reasons for this.

Element 7 Wordle 2

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It’s done.

21 Oct

You guys. I have something important to tell you.

You know that novel I’ve been working on for over 10 years now? The one that started back in 2007 as a series of random journal entries that eventually became scenes, which eventually became a novel? The one that I rewrote several times just so I could “get it right” then edited more times than I can recall?

Yeah, well…it’s done.

No, I really mean it. I sent it out to beta readers. Today. Like the whole thing. Completed.

Does that mean it won’t see any more changes? No, but I’ve gotten it as good as I can get it on my own, so now I’m sharing it with others who can help me make it even better.

What Comes Next?

Well, once I’ve gotten feedback from my beta readers (thank you!), I’ll be reading through that then deciding what changes should be made to my story. After which…

See, now that’s where things get fuzzy. Do I get ready to send the thing to literary agents and hope that I can find representation and a publisher, or do I strike out on my own as a self-published author? I’ve been debating this for some time now, and I’m still no closer to an answer. I’ve been telling myself, “Hey, why don’t you do some submissions for a while and see how that goes? If nothing comes of it, you can always self-publish.” Which is fine. But the very designer/creator side of me really likes the idea of having a say in things like the cover and layout design of my first novel.

Besides, I’m hearing it’s tough for self-proclaimed dieselpunk writers to get any representation right now—simply for the fact that they identify their work as “dieselpunk”. And that’s messed up ’cause y’all know I’m all about dieselpunk. I’ve gotten very involved in that community lately on Facebook and am even one of the top profiles that pop up on Twitter when you search for “dieselpunk”. In other words, I’ve been branding myself a certain way and would like to continue doing so.

In any case, I could go back to brainstorming ideas for Book II, which I’ve already started. I might wait a few weeks on that, at least, though. Take a break.

*sighs*

Anyway, that’s what’s going on with me.

What Are You Working On?

Writing a novel yourself? Or maybe you’ve been reading some good stories lately. I wanna know!

What 9/11 Taught Me About Antagonists & the Importance of Compassion

11 Sep

I was riding with my mom to school that day when we heard the emergency broadcast signal turn on…and then the reports started coming in. Students spent the morning watching the story unfold on the news. It was a surreal moment, knowing that people’s lives were in danger and the only thing you could do was sit there and listen about it.

Today, I was driving in my car with the radio on. The station I was listening to started playing a tribute with clips from the attacks and some music in the background. I thought about the videos we saw, how some people made the choice to jump from the towers rather than burn alive. Made me wonder how I would have reacted in that situation.

Of course, I’ll never know—and I hope I’ll never have to. Still, the thought alone was enough to make me cry.

I didn’t personally know anyone who was physically there at the Towers back when they were attacked on September 11th.  Still, I can’t say that the events which took place that day haven’t altered my life here in America. We’ve exchanged personal freedoms for an increased sense of security—an exchange I question as to its effectiveness at deterring terrorists, if I’m honest. Our security measures were a reaction, and it makes me wonder if we continue to remain a few steps “behind” those we call our enemies. (Say what you will about al-Qaeda and other terrorists we face today, but they’re certainly not stupid.)

Of course, these thoughts and events have inevitably influenced my writing.

What 9/11 Has Taught Me About Antagonists

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Beta Reading for The Elementalist: Rise of Hara

25 Aug

So. Since I’m like done-but-not-done with editing The Elementalist: Rise of Hara, it’s almost time for that all-important beta reading stage and I already have a handful of people who’ve been asking to be beta readers. Kinda cool.

Over the past month or so, I’ve been working on putting together a questionnaire for each “part” of my novel (there are 5 in total) to help me capture feedback that I’ll find most useful. For now, I’ve been sending out a Google Forms pre-screening questionnaire to folks who are interested in reading my story. It asks some general questions about reading preferences, the reader’s experience with writing, etc. and takes less than 5 minutes to complete. So if anyone is interested in being a beta reader for TEROH and providing their honest feedback, then definitely fill out that questionnaire, please and thank you. ^_^

After I collect some pre-screens and finish my current read-through, the plan is for me to send out my manuscript in 5 parts to beta readers. I’ll probably send all 5 at once unless otherwise requested so that readers can read and submit feedback at their own pace. This is a longer story, currently sitting at around 213K words; for non-writers, that’s like reading Crime and Punishment or a 700-ish-page novel, depending on formatting. If you don’t like reading longer novels, then you may not want to be a beta reader for this one.

Anyway, beta readers will be welcome to include notes or highlights on the manuscript itself, though I’ll be asking for specific feedback in the questionnaires themselves—mostly along the lines of general thoughts on a particular section up to the end of that section, the reader’s overall interest in my main as well as some minor characters, thoughts on larger plot points, interest in continuing to read the rest of the story at the end of each section…those kinds of things. (See example below.)

Beta Read Questions 1

Overall, I’m mostly interested in readers’ feelings and experiences with the story as they progress through it plus their big-picture thoughts. Though, I’m open to any feedback a reader feels compelled to share—be it grammar stuff, structural suggestions, or whatever. Regardless of what feedback I get, TEROH will definitely be visiting an editor at some point.

Here’s the thing: I need more time to finish this read-through of my manuscript. I’m looking mostly for cadence, tone, and flow while I read now as well as other small things that happen to jump out at me that I failed to notice before. It’s going faster than my last round of edits (much faster), but not as fast as I’d like because I’m a slow reader myself and am scrutinizing all 213K+ of these words one line at a time. *le sigh* Anyway, I’m going to be realistic and give myself until the end of September for now (tracking my progress on the right side of the blog), but I’ll send out an email to anyone who completes my pre-screening when I’m finished so you’ll know for sure.

Sound good? 🙂

Editing Progress & Stuff

6 Aug

So. Guess what? I’ve been making solid progress on the perpetual novel.

As I write this, my progress meter, as measured by completed scenes, reads at 92.37%. Translation: only 9 more scenes to edit then I’m “done.” (Don’t you just love those quotation marks?)

(Almost) Endless Edits

My goal is to complete all of my personal edits by the end of August. The progress meter is for all that remains…to a certain extent. See, I have a stack of notes scribbled on scraps of 1/4 sheets of paper that I’ve been chopping through, making sure each concern is dealt with in a linear fashion—that is, from chapter to chapter, beginning to end. Right now, I’m down to two notes, which means most likely, I don’t have much left in the way of structural edits to worry about. The remaining 9 scenes should go pretty smoothly.

I’ll probably even finish these edits by the end of next weekend.

Now, after that, will that really mean I’m “done” with editing? Not really. See, even after all of these edits, I’ve found it helpful to go back and reread the five “parts” or sections that I’ve divided my novel into because hey, every change potentially brings another problem. Like a disturbance of overall cadence or altogether omitted words.

Yup, can’t catch them all.

So far, I’ve only done this with Part I.  I started Part II but then other changes I made later required tweaking a few things in this section again. So really, I need to do a quick reread of Parts II through V—and I do mean quick ’cause I’m sick of looking at this thing. But like in the best way possible. (It’s funny what your brain picks up when all the major issues have been taken care of versus when you still have those to fix.)

Even after I do a quick reread of my edits, I expect beta readers will still find things because I always find something when I look back. I’m pretty much at the point now where I can’t rely on my eyes anymore. Beta readers will be very helpful for a variety of reasons. (I’m mostly interested to see people’s emotional and intellectual responses to my story, to be honest.) Though, even after I’ve gotten their feedback and taken that into consideration (meaning more edits), I expect I’ll want to hire an editor to look over my work for me—especially if I decide to self-publish.

Then, say I do find representation by a literary agent instead then later a publishing house if I go the traditional route. Naturally, they will require even more edits.

As you can see, “done” isn’t really “done” until the final proof of a novel is submitted for publication, really. As far as I know. In the meantime…

Flash Fiction: ‘Mmm…thought so.’

16 Jul

“Is he here? Is he seeing all of this?” Andre asks, referring to Voi’s clairvoyant handler as he knowingly runs a hand past her stockings, pausing on the garter straps.

She murmurs incoherent noises into his ear, struggling to make sense of words. Chamber music echoes off the walls—waltzes or trots or tangos. She forgets which.

“Mmm…thought so,” Andre says anyway. He stares into Voi’s unfocused eyes, flipping a clip undone with his thumb. Her pupils enlarge suddenly just as a gale bursts through the window.

Andre curses, flinching away.

Obliviously drinking in the fumes of ambrosia with another drag on her cigarette, Voi soon tosses her head back with a manic laugh as she allows herself to slip further from reality, no longer resisting Andre’s attempts to “parley.” All the while, the crowd continues dancing under the spell of the domesticated ball downstairs…

Voi gasps, then breathes.  The wind starts to die down some, and so does her laughter.  She begins humming.

“You’ve been a naughty girl, Voi…” Andre carefully takes the contraband drug from her fingertips now and stares at it.  “Where did you manage to get this from anyway?”

Voi pulls her head upright, peering at him with dark eyes. They no longer seem unfocused.  Instead, she says in a low voice, “Is that really what you came here for, Andre?”

Sometimes, I come across art or music that gives me a very specific idea for a scene in a new novel or, perhaps, one I’m already working on. This painting, “Night Geometry” by Jack Vettriano, is one such piece of art. Actually, a lot of Vettriano’s work has been inspiring scenes for my fantasy series over the past few years. It’s sultry and moody and full of tension, sometimes with noir-ish undertones, and that appeals to me. (Not your typical fantasy stuff, eh?)

Anyway, I had this particular scene in mind for a story that I won’t get to for another three novels from now—The Elementalist: Grand Masquerade, in fact—but hey, gotta catch that inspiration when it strikes, right? Also, my series has been in third-person limited, past tense so far, and sometimes it’s subjective because the narrator will add a bit of whimsical dramatic irony here or there, so I don’t know why I’ve changed forms here in this snippet.  Not even sure what perspective this is in or if it’s consistent! Kinda feels omniscient, in a way—which would be fun to play around with later, given that Voi is apparently playing with drugs at this point in the series…

I guess that’s what happens when you try and wing things.

In other news, I’m about 70% done with my edits on Book I. Kind of a nice feeling, considering. 🙂 Planning on being done by the end of August, at the latest. If I keep making steady progress, I should be able to hit that goal.

Would be nice!

…And here’s a little (not-so) random music to go along with the snippet, just because.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/0fw2O8ZuCHgFt6CVvDZZds

Black Authors, Diversity, & Epic Fantasy: The Bigger Picture

5 Jul

So I was Googling stuff about the difference between epic and high fantasy earlier when I somehow came across this blog post by a black writer named Derek Tyce who asks a poignant question: “Black authors writing fantasy… Where are they?” Naturally, being both black and interested in fantasy, I was intrigued, so I decided to read on to see what he had to say.

…And it got me thinking.

One great example of black authors writing fantasy with diverse characters: N. K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. | The Chandra Tribune

One great example of black authors writing fantasy with diverse characters: N. K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

First of all, I must note that Derek, of course, does mention a few black writers like N. K. Jemisin and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms series, among others (which I read the first book of though wasn’t terribly crazy about it myself; still, I found certain things to admire and appreciate). There are others, which fans have pointed out, but Derek’s point still stands: why aren’t there more black writers tackling epic fantasy? He also points out a lack of diversity among the characters displayed in epic fantasy stories. Granted, his post was written back in 2013 and a lot of new stuff has come out since then, but these are all still relevant topics to consider.

At least, I think so anyway. Continue reading

Let’s Be Honest

18 Jun

I’ve done it yet again: I’ve fallen into a slump with my novel, TEROH. (Thank God I’m not a career novelist!)

Can I be honest? I’m not a very consistent person. Except at work. Though, when I’m not at work—that is, getting paid for said work—I have a totally different mindset about, well, everything: if it’s not work then it’s basically leisure.

I know, that’s not how real life works (chores, bills and the like), but my brain forever has a hard time accepting that.

Anyway, out of my three big goals for this year, finishing TEROH is the one I’ve yet to cross off the list. (Okay, technically I haven’t started writing the second book yet. Though realistically, I should have set the goal as “start outlining and otherwise conceptualizing the remaining books in the series,” which I’ve done.) Every time I take a break and look back at what I’ve accomplished, I only see how much I’ve left to do. And when I think of the effort it took to get to where I am now, it saps the energy right out of me.

I have tunnel vision when I’m set on something, too, so I get really intense when I do work on my novel. It’s like the only thing I work on (outside of work). Worse, when I’m not in “work” mode, I’m as scatterbrained as they come.

What I’m saying is I don’t know how not to operate at 100% in any one mode, resulting in a spectacular crash-and-burn followed by a complete standstill on certain projects.

So, what have you been doing instead of writing, Tiyana?

Working on my house, apparently.

 

I have a lot of interests outside of writing, so when one thing stumps/overwhelms/bores me I’ll just hop onto something else. Thing is I really don’t want to get to the end of 2017 and not be able to say, “Hey guys, it only took me 10 years, not 11!” (This is not an exaggeration.)

This may be hard to believe, but I do just want to be done with this novel. I also know what will be required of me to get it to its best and it’s still a decent amount of work—less than I’ve had to do in the past but enough to psyche me out every now and then. (Hence the prolonged periods of nothingness.) Up to this point, I’ve been reading the whole thing aloud, but I actually find it effective to do a mixture of things:

  1. First, do a quick read-through of a scene to see if anything glaring sticks out then fix what I need to.
  2. Next, read the scene aloud and edit whatever else jumps out at me.
  3. Third, at a later date, read back through my changes and assess whether things still sit well with me. (Since I’ve divided the novel into five parts, I find it helpful to go back a do a quick re-read of that entire section as a whole once I’ve finished editing all the scenes in it.)

Doing this, I find, helps me finesse over errors that can happen in the middle of editing and makes me feel good about moving on—for good! Something I’ve been able to do with Parts I and II, thankfully. (I’m two super short scenes shy of finishing Part III. I’ve just been putting it off for reasons I don’t entirely understand.)

This is all fine and well, but when do you plan on finishing edits on TEROH?

Honestly, I have no idea how/when I’m going to kick myself into finishing the rest of my edits right now. I just know the goal was to get it done before the end of the year. So instead of pushing myself into these intense sessions where I’m working on it all day during my free time to make insane levels of progress, maybe I should just pace myself a bit slower and take more time.

It’s not like I haven’t taken enough time already.

(Edit: when I say “take more time,” I mean “take more time actively editing” and not “more time doing nothing.”)

How do you get yourself back out of a writing/editing rut?

Oh, yeah—and on a totally unrelated note, Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there!

Also, is it just me or has WordPress been annoyingly buggy lately? I mean I go to type something then come back later and it’s like I never typed it!

‘Does your book have any romance?’

7 May

We were sitting in this high-rise apartment, this stranger and I, J, talking about my novel. Sipping on some mixture of pale Moscato and red wine he’d poured, not realizing I wasn’t really into wine.

I like juice and whiskey, I said. Oh, then you might like this, J assured me.

He kept pouring. Turned out the drink was alright.

J was a writer, too. He understood. Though, when he asked the question, “Does your book have any romance?” I fell quiet for a moment then gave him this kind of wry, bitter laugh.

That he didn’t understand. He furrowed his brow, so I had to explain.

“The men in the novel aren’t exactly romantic. One tries to be, but it doesn’t come across that way because he’s too forceful; the other’s profession involves manipulating the protagonist to do something she normally wouldn’t do. I can’t really call that romance.”

J didn’t have much to say about that. The night carried on regardless.

Why There Isn’t Any ‘Real’ Romance in My Novel

Photo by Nathan Walker.

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