Friday, February 27, 2015

First Draft Madness

As I said in the last post, I'm working on my first draft for my current WIP. I've discovered several things in the last few weeks since this manuscript is different than anything else I've worked on.

Unlike my previous posts, I might actually break this one up with a few pictures.

First off, I'm using the King Arthur legend as a base for my book. For those who don't know of anything past the quite trashy romantic retellings which have been circulating for hundreds of years, the original is quite different. King Arthur is rumored to have lived sometime in the late 500s to the early 600s. Arthur's name was originally Artorex and he didn't start out as a king. Rumor has it, he didn't even originally start out as royalty but as a duke.

It wasn't until the 12th century when the knights were introduced into the stories. They were brought in to add to the romance. A French writer first introduced Lancelot at that time.

Though the original legend first tells of Arthur succeeding the throne from his father, King Uther, at fifteen, Arthur is in his twenties in my story and his father is still alive. After several years of peace, Arthur ventured out from his home to begin conquering other lands. In his absence Mordred, who would later end up killing him, took over the throne and married Arthur's wife.

Merlin is said to have aided Arthur's father though in my story, he is a much younger man and spends more time with Arthur than King Uther.

I am only bringing bits and pieces of my research into the story but I felt it would be necessary to know in order for the time period to feel right. Research has never been my strong point and having to do it for something soooo old is hard. Everything I bring into the story I have to go and look up. Real searches of mine: when were saddles invented? What did they call dresses in the 600s? Did they have boots in the 600s? Did the women wear veils in the 600s? 

These questions come up right in the middle of a sentence and I have to write them down on a note for research later. If I stopped writing to research every time I had a question, I'd never get my first draft written.

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I've looked up a lot of pictures to try and get a feel for the clothes they would'v worn but the popularly recreated medieval times are nothing like what the people in the 600s would've worn (from my understanding). I've saved a lot stylized paintings which give me a picture of the romanticized times. I have a Pinterest board full of them and am saving character pictures for my character wall. Now I need to go and buy some corkboards. I'm working on character profiles right now which are super hard and not my favorite thing to do at all!

The picture to the left is a popular one usually found when you search for this time period. The dress would be really wrong for the 600s but I like the picture. It makes me feel like I'm there.
Knight and Lady

My critique group has been really kind about my first chapter and gave me some great pointers. I'm planning on reminding them this week that it's an ugly ugly first draft and I really just want critiques on the plot and characters. The writing is going to be bad and the phrases will be repetitive and passive. I want to remind them of that this week because my second chapter is, well, a first draft chapter.

My last point of awkwardness in the POV. I'm writing in third person which I'm not comfortable with. I'm strongly considering switching it to first person when I do the second draft.

Oh, and one last thing. King Arthur's crest is NOT a dragon! As anything else, that's the romanticized crest but out of all the things I read, the one I found the most was three gold crowns against an azure background.

Back to my book. I've distracted myself long enough!

-Anna Leigh

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Work in Progress - The Queen Of Time

I've read an insane amount of author blogs and books on writing in the last year and come away with a few of the same things from every one. Getting rejected is part of the business. Writing isn't just a natural talent, it's something you sculpt and learn. Having strangers look your work over and give you critiques is essential. Going from these things, I've tried to apply them all.

The hardest one to start off with was the stranger critiquing. December of 2013, one of my biggest fears was showing someone my work. Seriously, if someone walks by when I'm writing, I'm super tempted to shut my computer lid or pull up the internet so they don't read it. If they ask about it, I put them off by saying I'll print it out or send it to them. I don't mean to put it off but I don't want them seeing it and finding out I'm really not a good writer but one of the many people who try but don't have what it takes.

I had to get over it.

When I put my book up on Amazon, I braced for the worst. Fortunately, my first draft has been read by a very small amount of people and the negative has been pretty minimal. The last few months of editing, I've been amazed people weren't meaner. It needed help! Big time!

So, have I gotten over my fear? Not really. But it's gotten a lot better. I still don't like people reading my book when I'm sitting there because I still tend to get sweaty palms but I'm volunteering it more by the day. If strangers ask me what I do, I tell them I'm a writer and then I give them a little synopsis about the book I'm working on. It's my dream job and instead of being scared of it, I'm starting to realize if I want it, I need to have courage and go for it. Will I ever be a best selling novelist? Probably not. Will I someday sign on with a reputable publisher to put my work into the world? Most likely. If I want it enough and work hard enough, it will happen. Now I just need to get there.

Starting January 1st, I decided this would be the year of conquering several of my fears. Putting together a short mental list, I've started working on almost all of them! I looked around online for critique groups but wasn't really too impressed with what I found. I found a free one but no one was very active on it and the one guy who answered me had my book for two weeks and never said a word or sent me his. Needless to say, I deleted his invitation to view my google doc.

I filled out a form for a group called Inspire Writers. They require a paid membership ($50.00 a year which isn't bad) but I wanted to see what they'd say. I wanted to be a part of a Christian group even though my book isn't really in the Christian genre because I didn't want to be reading a lot of the stuff that's going on outside of a Christian group.

I got an email a few days later. The lady was very nice but clear that YA is a constantly growing genre and their groups are full. She also wanted to know if I had a membership and I said no. I don't mind paying for one but I kind of want to know if it would be beneficial to me first. She said the waiting list was quite long to get into the groups. I thanked her for her time and moved on...until a week later when she sent me another email. One of the ladies had decided to start another YA writing group and Carol (the lady who originally had talked to me) was giving me an opportunity to join! Not only that but she said I could do it for three months free to see if it suited me! No brainer.

Now to what I'm going to be working on. I've settled on my King Arthur retelling. For anyone who knows me or read the beginning of this blog, retellings are where I started. The King Arthur story has be retold countless times with so many different angles but I have yet to read one I liked. The elements of my story sound similar to a few I've read but I'm going for a plot line I've never seen before. This is the initial synopsis I'm sending to my critique group.

       Eighteen year old Gwen White lives with her abusive mother and new stepfather in a little town which hasn't ever taken notice of her existence. With the loss of her only friend as well as her trusty laptop, life for Gwen has hit an all time low. 

       When her stepfather sells her out for an experiment, Gwen finds herself in the last place she expected; Camelot. Complete with the knights, the sights, and Prince Arthur, Gwen has to navigate the strange territory in the hopes she'll get back home before the mythical legend takes a deadly turn. 

This book is third person which is unusual for my normal writing style but I wanted to try something different. I've written two and a half chapters and am excited by my progress. I have yet to get into the complicated parts of the story yet and I'm sure I'll lose a bit of steam when I do. I plan to have the initial draft done by April (it would be sooner but I am still finishing my first draft of HN) and then we'll see from there.

My first chapter is due to be sent out on Sunday (the day after my twentieth birthday!) and I wish it would come already. I'm so nervous about what they'll say. After I get some critiques back, I'll post the chapter along with changes they suggested.

Anna Leigh

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Final Edits and Continued Journeys

Two weeks ago I finished what I hope will be the final edit of Only Human! Besides the odd spelling mistake and some rearrangements with the number of pages in a chapter, I'm done. At least for a while.

For anyone interested, I managed to squeak out my 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo! It was scary and there were a few days when I thought I wouldn't make it but I did. As of this week, I've gotten back to my sequel and all the pressures it brings. The thing is, I have a great ending in mind and great characters to bring me there. I'm just stuck on that ever so sticky middle of the book situation. When I finished editing OH a few weeks back, I pulled open Human Nature and plunged right in. I was scared and had my notebook ready to jot down all the problems...and found surprisingly little. I mean, does it need work? Yes! Will it need some definite editing TLC? Oh yeah! But it wasn't the mess my first book. It wasn't even close. It's altogether possible I'm seeing the payoff of all the research I've been doing in the last year.

When I told my Mom I'd finished, the first thing she wanted to know was if I'd saved the last draft before I'd began this last edit. As soon as I have an improved product, I can't wait to get rid of the embarrassing one cluttering up my computer and my writing life. But when she said it, I went to my computer and unearthed the previous copy from the trash bin. She really wanted to read them side to side because she really liked the last draft and she said she's afraid she won't like my new edit as much. I assured her that wouldn't be the case. I think in the future, despite the embarrassment it might bring, I'll enjoy having that old draft. If not for anything else, I can pull it up on a discouraging day and tell myself yes, I have gotten better.

In the meantime, I have all these thoughts floating in the back of my mind about what I want to pitch to a publisher. I have a whole list of them in mind, all sorts of things saved about query letters, and a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that says I'm going to fail. I will fail but only if I look at it that way. Getting rejected once, twice, or even ten times isn't a failure. It's a learning curve. My last draft with it's bulky 115,000 word count and far too many uses of the word 'eye' and 'was' wasn't a failure. It's something I've used to move on.

All that being said, I don't love science fiction. It's what my Human series falls under but it isn't what I really like writing. I enjoy contemporary character sketches with funny moments, sad moments, and an all over feeling about how much you care about the characters. If I pitch something to an agent or a publisher, I want it to be in a genre that I'll keep writing in. As much work as I've put into my Human series, I don't want to be stuck writing science fiction. All these things leave me to figure out what I do want to use to represent myself.

I'll write again soon about the critique group I joined and the book I'm focusing on as the 'one' to send to the publisher. I promise I'll write before the date says 2016 :)

-Anna Leigh