Oh, The Inconsistencies!

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We’ve all read a book where the details don’t quite jive. A character’s car was blue in Chapter 1, but in Chapter 15 it somehow becomes red. Or a conversation is taking place in the kitchen on one page, but then jumps to the living room on the next with no reference to movement. As a reader, you wonder why the writer couldn’t remember to keep that car blue or stick with a scene setting, but keeping track of all that stuff is incredibly difficult.

Just recently I was talking to another writer who equated fiction writing to basically telling one big lie. When we lie, we have to remember every detail or the lie loses credibility. Fiction works the same way – to make it believable everything has to be perfectly aligned. When writing an 80,000 word novel, this is tricky business as writers are essentially telling a big lie over an extended period of time. It’s easy to forget a minute detail that was created and written three months ago.

The revision process helps in aligning details, but it’s inevitable that a few details will fall through the cracks. This is where an editor comes in handy! Especially, a sharp-eyed editor with an ultra sensitive radar. Lucky for me, nothing gets by my editor.

Even though I’ve read my novel draft a hundred times, a few inconsistencies still slipped into the fourth draft. How on earth does that happen? Easy. As a writer, I get so caught up in creating a scene, I’ll forget what I did in a previous section. Sometimes, I just can’t let go of that scenic tunnel vision!

After reading two thirds of my edited manuscript, my editor has pointed out the following issues I need to resolve:

  • a random dog that shows up in the beginning of the novel, but is never seen again
  • inconsistent use of noise canceling headphones, i.e. my character owns them in one scene, but not in another
  • emotional gap from one chapter to another, i.e. a character feels one way about another character in one chapter, but the emotion doesn’t carry through to the next chapter.

The last third of my novel includes the most “rewritten” mythology, which means the propensity for inconsistency is going increase tenfold. Instead of simply telling one big lie, I am telling two. Somewhere along the way, I’m sure there is a hole in the fabric I have woven. Thankfully, I have faith my editor will find it before a reader does.

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c.b.w. 2014

Clearing The First Hurdle

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When I sent my manuscript to my editor, I made a mental list of things I’d be willing to fight for if they disappeared or were changed beyond recognition. The list is actually very short, seeing as I walked into the process determined to stay open-minded to change.

In reading chapters five through ten, I knew one of my list items was on the horizon. And it wasn’t just any list item, it was one of my favorite parts of the entire story. As soon as I saw the heading for Chapter 10, I took a deep breath and hoped my original vision was largely intact.

Chapter 10 is a turning point in the story as this is where Ian’s secret is forced out of him. He can’t hide anymore and Amanda learns the truth behind his presence in her life. This moment between them is both emotional and magical.

What makes this particular part of the story so important to me is somewhat sentimental. It’s the first conversation I ever “heard” between my main characters, Amanda and Ian. There voices chimed into my imagination with such shocking clarity, I felt more like a transcriptionist than a writer.

The question, however, was whether my editor would see it the way I do. Her changes through chapters five through nine were relatively subtle (and extremely well done) and that gave me a little boost of confidence as I jumped into Chapter 10. That being said, I still made sure I wore my thick skin before reading even a single line. Thick skin is an important wardrobe accessory for any writer reading through edits!

After the first big breath at the start of the chapter, I don’t think I exhaled until the page before Chapter 11. Then, it took every bit of control I had not to jump up out of my chair and do a happy dance. The dialogue was relatively untouched and my original vision remained totally intact. The changes she made were quiet, yet powerful in that she made what I wrote flow with a little more elegance.

Now, I can relax a bit as one huge item on my list made it through my editor’s radar. Another big list item is coming in Chapter 12 and I’m still wondering what happened to my missing 23 pages and 7,000 words! But, for now, I’ll just bask in the fact that one hurdle has been cleared.

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c.b.w. 2014

Digging Into Change

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It’s been a week since my editor returned my manuscript. In that time I’ve downloaded the fully edited version to my Kindle Fire and read the first five chapters. So far the process has been pretty painless, but I’m sure that’s because I let it sit unopened for two days while I prepped myself to let go of things and approach change with an open mind.

Before opening the file, I remember thinking, I hope she didn’t change the first line.  Silly, silly me. When the first page loaded, the first line was not only different, but gone!  I braced myself for the inevitable heartbreak that was sure to rip through my chest, but it never happened. For a moment, I sat there in total shock. Why? I loved the new first line. A lot.

This was a huge surprise to me because I always loved the original first line, which meant I never touched it through four drafts of revisions. That sentimental attachment was a problem, but I never saw it until someone else pointed it out! I had to say goodbye to my line, but I know my novel is better without it.

Over the next few chapters, the changes are more subtle, but still just as powerful. Small changes in word choice and grammar are helping to smooth out the way my words flow. Deletions here and there are creating a tighter sentences and paragraphs.  In some cases, I’m reading and I know things are missing, but it I don’t seem to miss them. That tells me they didn’t need to be there in the first place.

While the first chunk of this process has been easy to tackle, I know there are some big changes to come. The modified draft is 23 pages and about 7,000 words shorter than my original manuscript, which means something drastic has happened somewhere!

It’s easy to panic with those kind of numbers floating around, but all I have to remember is how much I love my new first line. It’s something I never thought I would accept, but here I am smiling. Will this happen with every major change? Probably not. There are things I’m willing to fight for if they are missing, but I’m also open to the possibility of trying a different path.

The next five chapters are on the agenda for the coming week. Hopefully, the read will be just as enlightening as the first five.

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c.b.w. 2014

Writing Process Blog Hop

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If you ask five writers about their writing process, you’ll get five different answers. That’s part of what makes reading writer blogs so interesting and inspiring. So, when I got tagged for a writing process blog hop, I was thrilled! Susan Rocan of mywithershins invited me to jump into the fray and I’m more than happy to do so. She is the author of two YA novels and an amazing crafter! I love her blog and highly recommend it for readers, writers, and crafters.

I’ll be answering four questions about my process and current projects. Then, I’ll be tagging three other bloggers to take part in the blog hop.

1) What am I working on?

Currently, I’m working on a number of things. Recently, I’ve started taking my poetry much more seriously. Over the last few months, I’ve tinkered with different forms and experimented with new concepts. As a result I’ve written more poetry over the last couple of months than I did all of last year.

I’m also starting to answer the call of my muse regarding the sequel to The Muse. After a long break of relative silence from my characters, they are starting to pop back into my head. My novel notebook goes everywhere with me and I’m busy scribbling notes, ideas, and concepts. It’s really very exciting to be immersed completely in the creative process.

Speaking of The Muse, I recently hired an editor to comb through my manuscript and help me make it as perfect as possible. I’m super excited to embark on yet another another phase of revision. With the help of my editor, I’m hoping to end up with an even better version of my passion project!

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The Muse stands apart from other YA fiction for two reasons:

1. It puts a twist on mythology and art.

I include references to actual Greek myths and works of art with a high degree of accuracy, but I’m also not afraid to alter the truth. Reality and imagination are mixed together to create fictionalized layers to famous works of art and literature.

When it comes to the mythological elements of The Muse, I combed through ancient texts until I hit something rather interesting regarding muses and their origins. Instead of playing with the obvious gods and a goddesses, I took a relatively small aspect of Greek mythology and essentially rewrote the canon. The general structure of the myth surrounding muses remains, but I expand on lesser known elements by creating a backstory with new characters and new “rules.” In my world, there’s a such thing as male muses!

2. The villains are not evil.

After reading a number of YA paranormal/fantasy novels, the one thing many shared in common was an outright evil antagonist. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it got me wondering, what if the villain wasn’t evil?  Thus, my imagination went wild in creating antagonists that are mesmerizing with beauty inside and out, yet still pose a grave threat to my protagonists.

3) Why do I write what I do?

The funny thing is I didn’t “get” YA fiction until I was well into my twenties. My students actually persuaded me to read a book they liked and it turned out to be fantastic! As I continued to delve into YA books, I realized the insight they offered helped me understand students on much deeper level.

That being said, I discovered a genre that tells some pretty great stories.  YA authors deserve far more credit than they receive for being incredible storytellers and world builders. This is especially true when it comes to YA fantasy and paranormal genres.

I discovered a deep passion for urban fantasy and magical realism. Once I started experimenting with the style, I loved the freedom of having absolutely no limits on where a story could go. The concept of taking elements of the real world and giving them a sprinkle of fairy dust is just irresistible. So is having a platform to explore real emotions and issues experienced by young adults.

So often, young adults are portrayed as being oblivious to life and the world around them, but my experiences with them have given me a different perspective. They are smart, observant, and often wiser than people give them credit. At the same time, they can be insecure and impressionable as they are people still trying to find themselves.

In many ways, I want my fiction to change the way people perceive young adults, while also capturing the internal experience of growing up.

4) How does my writing process work?

My process varies depending on the project. When it comes to poetry, I am very inspired by images. Photographs in particular seem to get my muse rolling. Because of that, I consciously take a lot of photographs of different objects, textures, and locations. Whether I’m at home or abroad, I know my camera is going to unlock poetic verse, so I better pay attention to what’s around me!

For novel writing, I keep a novel notebook. I’m a big believer in brainstorming, so I scribble every single idea that comes to mind. Sometimes it’s a bulleted list of plot points  and at others it’s an erratic semantic web of random thoughts. I’ll sketch out locations and make scrapbook pages of character wardrobes. Some pages are reserved for playlist songs or research notes.

In the midst of all the chaos, pages are numbered and details are color coded and/or symbol coded to help me keep spread out ideas connected. I swear none of it makes sense to anyone, but me!

Above all else, I make time to write every single day. Even if its just gibberish, I still write. Sometimes that gibberish leads to an unexpected and wonderful journey!

Psssst … gibberish lead to The Muse!

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Tag, you’re it:

The Everyday Epic – A fantasy writer who documents her journey into fiction both as a writer and reader. Visit her blog for all things Tolkien and inspiration.

Rita Ackerman – a writer that delves into non-fiction, fiction, and the writing process. Her blog offers very informative and inspiring posts on the writing process.

The third blogger I contacted has yet to answer me, but if she does, I’ll add her to the list!

Visit these blogs to see how they respond to the above writing process questions as well who they tag to keep the blog hop going!

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c.b.w. 2014

The Flashback Conundrum

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As I embark on writing the sequel to The Muse, I find myself in the middle of an artistic quandary. Writing a series is tricky business, particularly when it comes to reminding the reader what happened in the previous book(s) in a subtle, yet effective way. It’s all too easy to alienate readers with overwhelming reminders or lose them by providing little or no details to jog the memory.

Having read multiple Young Adult series books, I’ve taken note of how each author handles the  “flashback conundrum.” The methods vary greatly from series to series, which makes me seriously question how I should handle the flashback conundrum that inevitably plagues every series.  Ultimately, it comes down to how much an author trusts the reader. In the YA genre, we are dealing with a generation with short attention spans, but also fangirl mentalities that forget nothing. It’s a paradox with no simple solution!

The methodology of crafting a series flashback seems to break down into four categories:

Snapshot Flashback

This method involves inserting nuggets of information within the first few chapters or the entire sequel in small doses. Flashback details are carefully chosen and strategically placed to keep the reader apprised of necessary information without detracting from the story as it pushes forward.

Best example: Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga

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Prologue Flashback

Some authors choose to remind readers of key storyline details by crafting a prologue that directly states prior events or utilizes a similar story layout or literary technique to pull the reader back into the world that was created in previous volumes. In a sense, it works like a mnemonic device to trigger the memory.

Best example: Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush Saga

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Information Dump Flashback

This style of flashback tends to be unpopular, but unfortunately it still pops up in a number of series. The author essentially dumps large blocks of information either at the beginning of the sequel or in chunks throughout the installment. Most readers find this annoying and very distracting. I’d have to agree.

Best example: Luckily, I haven’t come across the information dump in recent YA reads, but it is very present in just about every Dan Brown book involving Robert Langdon since The Da Vinci Code. The Lost Symbol is the worst offender.

Invisible Flashback

There are a number of YA authors that implicitly trust their readers to remember every detail, look it up on wikipedia, or take the time to comb through the previous books. Little or no references to previous novels are included as readers are just expected to know everything.

Best example: Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices Series

Cassandra Clare Books The Mortal Instrumenst The Infernal Devices

Authors of all genres have grappled with the flashback conundrum as there are undoubtedly far more than four methods. Still, the question remains which method is the  most effective and least annoying to readers? There is no easy answer as readers are as diverse as the books they read.

To all readers and writers out there, I put the question in your hands …

 

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c.b.w. 2014