Tag: Thirteen Treasures of Britain

Work Is Hard When You’re in the First Trimester

Good news: I’m pregnant. Due in October.

Bad news: I feel nauseated ALL THE TIME. The term “morning sickness” is very misleading. Very misleading indeed. I feel the worst in the evenings, actually. But mornings, afternoons, evenings — they all suck. Just constant stomach churning. It’s like being seasick 24/7, but without a way to get off the boat.

This has slowed my editing of Thirteen Treasures down considerably. It’s also completely stalled my attempts to write the rough draft of book 2 in the series, Ysbaddaden and the Game of Chess.

I’m still working towards my deadlines, but they loom over me like horrible specters now, instead of like the bright beacons they were before. ┬áBefore, my deadlines were finish lines I couldn’t wait to cross. I was sprinting and feeling the rush of oncoming victory. But now, I feel mostly dread. If I’m not feeling sick with nausea, I’m falling asleep because being pregnant makes one INCREDIBLY, INSANELY TIRED. And then on top of the physical issues, I’m sick with worry that I won’t finish the books on time.

If this post sounds like I’m whining, I am. I’m whining. A lot.

I listen to self-publishing podcasts, read blogs by indie writers, keep up on the latest strategies for marketing. But nowhere in the vast self-pub world do I see much information about how to get the job done when one is pregnant and also has a toddler at home. I’m beginning to suspect there’s not much out there for pregnant, self-publishing moms because pregnant, self-publishing moms are rarer than yetis.

And yes, my hormones are out-of-whack. Explains my dour mood, doesn’t it?

Anyway, I’ll do my best to keep chugging along.

Onward to Midsummer!

Revision Process, Phase 1

I’m in the midst of revising my second draft of The Thirteen Treasures of Britain.

Confession time: I’m not going to pay a professional editor. The reason I’m not is because I can’t afford it. Perhaps in time, once I’m selling oodles of books a day, then I can hire a professional copy editor. For now, I must rely upon my own skills.

(Side Note: I’m a high school English teacher during the day — and have been for five years — so I spend most of my time offering revision and editing suggestions to student-writers. I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on critiquing other peoples’ writing. Hopefully, I can transfer this skill to my own writing.)

But even if I were paying a professional copy writer, I’d still do a lot of revision myself. Copy editors are going to help with cleaning up the prose and the continuity of the text, but they can’t help with the structure or characterization. Of course, a structural/developmental editor may help with those things, but that kind of editor is even more expensive than a copy editor, and I think at this point in my writing life, I know what needs to be done structurally to make a story work. I’ve had a lot of training in screenwriting, and my teachers hammered structure, characterization, and dialogue into me with repeated force.

Maybe I will hire a copy editor for this book, who knows. The more I think about it, the more I think I could scrounge up $500 for one. But if I can’t manage that amount, then I’ll just make sure to go over my manuscript with incredible attention to detail. It can be done; it just takes a lot of patience.

Right now I’m in the “quick read-through” phase of the revision process: I set the manuscript aside for a couple of weeks, then I pick it up and read it on my kindle just as I would any book. While I read, I make super-quick notes in a separate notebook. I use symbols instead of writing anything lengthy because the symbols are quicker to write down and don’t interfere with the quick read-through process. (N.B.: I stole this idea from James Scott Bell in his excellent book Plot & Structure).

The symbols I use are as follows (again, heavily borrowed from Bell’s book):

Checkmark: Dragging
Star: Sentence-level revision needed (in other words, the prose is wonky or I need to work on paragraphing)
Circle: Need to add material
X: Cuts (either because I’m over-explaining, something’s not working, or I’m telling and not showing)
?: Plot hole/inconsistency

That’s it. I don’t write lengthy notes while I’m doing the quick read-through. The idea is to get an overall sense of the story. One of the reasons for this is that sometimes when I’m doing a read-through, I see a “flaw” and immediately start revising. Then I get lost in the rabbit hole of “tinkering” which is not really revision but just endless shifting of commas and clauses. The quick read-through and symbol system help me avoid getting sucked into this trap.

The other reason for the quick read-through is because I don’t believe a fundamentally flawed book can be fixed in revision. Not to be too gross, but trying to fix a fundamentally flawed book is like trying to polish a turd. Better to just flush that thing and move on.

If the quick read-through reveals that my story isn’t working — that on a structural level, something is off — then I need to start over. Dean Wesley Smith calls this the “redraft.”

When I wrote the first draft of Thirteen Treasures, I didn’t like it. It had some good moments, but overall, I found it to be fatally flawed. So I put it in a drawer and started over. My second draft for Thirteen Treasures is a completely new story. I’ve kept most of the main characters and a few of the settings, but the structure is new, the themes are new, and the overall energy and tone are new. I’m in the midst of the quick read-through now, and I can already say that I enjoy this new story so much better than the old one. It would’ve been a waste of my time to try and fix the problems of the first draft. With this second “redraft,” I’ve got something inherently solid that I know I can work with to make better.

It’s a bit daunting to do a “redraft” because it feels like the time spent with the previous draft was all just wasted time. But honestly, writing a new draft is a lot more fun than struggling to edit something that is fundamentally not good. Sometimes we as writers need to exhale some garbage and clear our creative heads before we can get to writing the good stuff. My first draft of Thirteen Treasures was the stuff I needed to exhale. The second draft was the story I really wanted to write. The quick read-through that I’m in the midst of now has shown me that this second draft is revision-worthy.

After the quick read-through, I’ll move on to Phase 2 of the revision process. More on that later…

The Rough Draft Is Done!

Finished my Thirteen Treasures of Britain rough draft the other day. Whew!

Now comes the long march of revisions. I might just totally, utterly, and completely revamp my entire story. So that should be fun.

What’s weird is that I used to outline my stories in the past — lots of note cards, lots of outlines, etc. — and I found it made the process of actually writing to be a bit of a slog. I found that my inspiration kinda died if I did too much outlining and planning ahead of time.

So with Thirteen Treasures of Britain, I totally wrote by the seat of my pants (“pantsers” as they say in NaNo-realm). It was fun to write (until the end, where I had no idea how to finish the story in a non-lame way), but now I’m afraid what I have is a hodgepodge mess of a story that ends in a boring, predictable way. My endings always suck. But this one was particularly sucky because I didn’t have a plan going in.

Does this mean I really need to be a “planner”? Do I have to do a full outline beforehand? Do I need all kinds of character profiles and maps and background-y stuff?

It’s looking more and more like I do. And yet, I’m afraid that I’ll plan everything out and then be completely uninspired when I sit down to write. It’s happened to me before. Will it happen again?

Interestingly, when I was in college learning about screenwriting, it was pretty much hammered into our brains that we had to write treatments (basically, outlines in story-form), beat sheets, and scene summaries. And I never found these kinds of pre-writing tools to be soul-deadening or inspiration-crushing.

My plan for revising The Thirteen Treasures of Britain will include the following:

  • Rereading my rough draft and marking up sections (basic categories: keep it, toss it, needs work)
  • Creating a “BORG outline” (trademark: James Scott Bell in Plot & Structure) for a new version of the story
  • Seeing where I can combine material from my rough draft with my new story outline
  • Writing a second draft (using the new outline)

For now, I’m letting the draft settle and I’m working on pre-writing for an entirely different story (tentatively titled The Red Tower). I will return to the Thirteen Treasures of Britain rough draft in a week and go from there.

I’m kinda excited. Revision is one of my favorite parts of writing.

Name Change

I am under no illusions that I am the only author to use the mythology behind the thirteen treasures of Britain in her stories. I know that there are other books and novels that use the thirteen treasures. However, until my husband mentioned it the other day, I did not know that there is an actual book series called “13 Treasures” (complete with the number 13 instead of the word thirteen in the title).

Clever readers of this blog may have noticed that I have since changed my novel’s title. No longer will I be using the “13 Treasures of Britain” moniker; instead, I have gone slightly more traditional and changed the novel’s title to “The Thirteen Treasures of Britain.” I’m still kinda miffed about this title business; I liked using the number 13 in my title because it had a sort of irreverence about it, and my story is an irreverent take on Arthurian stories and myths. However, I am even less keen on having my book be almost identical in name to the “13 Treasures” series of children’s fiction. I still want to keep the thirteen treasures as part of my title, so I figure the best way to distinguish my book from this other book is to go with the more formal, written-out name of “thirteen treasures.”

It’s not a huge deal, but it is sort of annoying to find out someone else has pretty much used my idea. Thankfully, my “Thirteen Treasures of Britain” story is completely different from this children’s series, so there are no worries on that front.

Maybe I should name my book: “The Thirteen Treasures of Britain (or How Merlin Lost His Beard and Tried to Save the World).” [This is only slightly a joke. But then, I love really long titles for things. Maybe I will change it to this…]

The Value of Side Projects

I’m stealing a lot of my ideas in this post from Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work!

About two weeks ago, I organized a bunch of my old notebooks and stumbled upon an early one from my teenage years. Inside were many maps and names for a fantasy world I called “Kell.” I was surprised at how many of the place names and character names from this old notebook stirred ideas in my head. I’ve been mulling over an idea for a fantasy series set in an original world (i.e.: not a mash-up of mythology and folk lore, as The Thirteen Treasures of Britain is currently constituted). Basic set up is a young woman awakens to find herself in a room, which she discovers is in a high tower with only one window and no doors (think: Rapunzel). She has no memory of how she got there or who she is. This was all I had: the girl in the high tower (yes, I am aware of the Philip K. Dick-ish book title…).

What I really needed was a world for my character and her tower to exist in. Cue my old notebook. I started imagining all the ways to meld my story idea with my imaginary world of Kell. But then I stopped. Wasn’t I supposed to be writing The Thirteen Treasures of Britain and working toward my January 4 deadline? This girl in the tower idea was a distraction, right?

But then I remembered the words of Austin Kleon: “I think it’s a good idea to have a lot of projects going at once so you can bounce between them. When you get sick of one project, move over to another, and when you’re sick of that one, move back to the project you left. Practice productive procrastination” (Steal Like an Artist, p. 65).

This. This is how my brain works. I’m a bouncer. I bounce from idea to idea, exploring, going off on tangents, getting obsessed for several days in a row over one idea, one project, and I work like heck, forgetting to eat or to sleep, until that project is done, and then it’s back to the main project, and working on the main project, until slowly that gets done, but all the while, side projects bounce in and out.

This realization was freedom. I could knock off and spend two hours with my old notebooks and create backstory for my “Red Tower” world (which is what I’m calling the tower where my heroine is stuck), and strangely enough, this knocking about in my side project, has inspired more ideas for The Thirteen Treasures of Britain. The two projects are feeding off of each other and nourishing each other. Suddenly, what felt like a distraction was the very lifeblood for writing.

I’m really starting to realize that the most important thing is to always be working. If I keep working, if I keep creating, then I’ll be on the right track. It’s when I stop creating that things start to die.

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