I’m back! But will I finish before GRRM?

“F you Adrian.” – Angry George R. R. Martin

I’m back! And it’s 2019! My last blog post was in 2017 (how embarrassing!), but I’m digging in and writing again! I’m back to work on my sequel, The Chromium Smith (Book 2 of The Blacksmiths fantasy series). I left off on Chapter 12 after some serious plot challenges mixed with writer’s block. Well, after discovering some old notes I had forgotten about, I realized that I had solved my own plot hole and got back to it!

So why the big delay in progress on the sequel? Other than getting stone walled by my own plot, I got seriously distracted with life. I had a new baby (baby Adelyn, born on Halloween of all days!), got a new job, had to move to a new state, a new house, and of course, got distracted with other forms of entertainment (TV, games, etc.). But with the discovery of my notes and removal of a hobby that was capitalizing my time, I found my renewed vigor in storytelling!

And, with a new year comes new goals. I gave my website a much needed face lift and then organized my notes. (There’s nothing worse than writing with notes that are not structured in any way). I then began going through Chapters 1 – 11, finding moments that needed revisions to address my plot issue, and then got back to work on Chapter 12. I’m feeling good about it, but I’m sure I need to shake off my rustiness. I may also need to completely reread all Chapters just to familiarize myself again, but progress is being made!

So the big question: Will book 2, The Chromium Smith, be done before The Winds of Winter by George R. R. Martin is released? Only time will tell.

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The Ravenous Flock is free all day on April 5th and April 6th! Grab you free copy for Kindle here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EC0QHB0/

This short story is a prelude of The Blacksmiths series and takes you on a thrill ride filled with danger, intrigue and magic! With multiple 5 star ratings and a price tag of free, you can’t go wrong! Get it now!The Ravenous Flock new cover

Happy Holidays! The Ravenous Flock is FREE till Dec 24th!

I would like to say a special thank you to all of my followers, and wish you all Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year.

As a token of my appreciation, and to celebrate, I am giving away my short story, The Ravenous Flock, free from now till Dec 24th (as well as on New Year’s Day too!).

CLICK HERE to go to Amazon and grab your FREE Kindle ebook of The Ravenous Flock!

Deus Ex Machina

This is something that all writers will encounter during their career. There is no escaping it; writers will run into this problem. As they continue to flush out their story, a writer will inevitably write themselves into a corner (whether in the planning/outline stage, or during the writing itself). Their story will inevitably get to the point where it needs help! The question is: Does the author force a rewrite? Or do they use a deus ex machina to save the day?

Excerpt from Wikipedia: The Latin phrase deus ex machina, from deus (“a god”) + ex (“from”) + machina (“a device, a scaffolding, an artifice”), is a calque from the Greek “god from the machine“.

It is a mechanism employed by writers to solve a problem in the story – usually using divine intervention, or some unknown spell or magic, or some secret passage that was unbeknownst to the reader – that comes in at the last second and saves the day. Especially in the fantasy genre, the deus ex machina mechanism is disliked by readers in general. The issue with this is it doesn’t allow the characters to overcome the problem on their own. Additionally, it’s not fair to the reader. It would be like reading a mystery novel, constantly trying to guess who the murderer is throughout the book, only to discover that the murderer is no one that was ever introduced anywhere in the novel before. It ruins the experience.

For those that may be struggling or wrestling with their story right now, trying to overcome a roadblock, I encourage you to either work through it and/or rewrite it. Don’t give in to the deus ex machina. It’s the easy solution, I know, but it will also degrade the quality of your story. A solution that worked for me was to engineer the solution by mind mapping my story arcs and character motivations. It is like the movie Apollo 13, where the astronauts were in trouble and the guys back at NASA had to come up with a solution using nothing but the tools that the astronauts had. In hopes that it gives you motivation, here is the scene:

[Several technicians dump boxes containing the same equipment and tools that the astronauts have with them onto a table]

Technician: We’ve got to find a way to make this

[square CSM LiOH canister]

Technician: fit into the hole for this

[round LEM canister]

Technician: … using nothing but that.

Distinguishing Between Fiction Genres

Literary Agencies and Publishers use a plethora of terms to describe different categories of fiction genres. Since they don’t always use the same standard terms, this post will hopefully help clear up any confusion as it pertains to Fiction, Fantasy, and/or Science Fiction genres.

  • Speculative Fiction: A broad term that covers all the fantastical sub-genres of fiction, such as fantasy, science fiction, and horror, etc.
  • Genre Fiction: This includes horror, sci-fi, and fantasy.
  • Fantasy: A fiction novel that fuses fantasy elements into the story. They can be magic, it could be unicorns, it could be Greek gods, etc. Anything that isn’t real that is a part of the story turns it from regular fiction into fantasy.
  • High Fantasy: Contains lots of magic, swords, dragons, elves, etc. Is also usually set in its own world.
  • Low Fantasy: Staged in the medieval era, but many of the classical fantasy elements aren’t present, or are used sparingly. George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones is a good example of this.
  • Sword & Sorcery: Same as High Fantasy.
  • Urban Fantasy: This takes the real world of today, and throws fantastical elements into it (such as magic, monsters, etc).
  • Epic Fantasy: Is set in its own world. This is also known as High Fantasy.
  • Steam Punk: In my experience, this has always been in a category of its own. It is a blend of fantasy and technology (of the steam-engine variety).
  • Science Fiction: This usually is set in space, or some time frame in the future. Usually incorporates technology that isn’t invented yet.
  • YA: This is young adult.
  • MG: Middle Grade.
  • Literary Fiction: Used to distinguish serious fiction (that is, work with claims to literary merit) from the many types of genre fiction and popular fiction (i.e., paraliterature)
  • Contemporary Fiction: Includes stories that could happen to people or animals. The characters are made up, but their actions and feelings are similar to those of people we could know. These stories often take place in the present time and portray attitudes and problems of contemporary people
  • Commercial Fiction: Attracts a broad audience and may also fall into any subgenre, like mystery, romance, legal thriller, western, science fiction, and so on

If there are some that I missed, please let me know in the comments below. I’ll continue to add to this list to make it as comprehensive as possible.

Working with an Editor

Do you want to get inside the mind of an editor? To know what they might look for? To know how they think? I recently had lengthy exchanges with my first editor, Derek Bowen, and would like to share my lessons learned from working with him on revising my short story, The Ravenous Flock.

After completing his first read through, he wanted me to consider renaming one of my races and my monster. They striked him more as descriptions (adjectives) than names, so I had to spend some time brainstorming on the topic before I finally arrived at appropriate names.

In general, the majority of his edits were opportunities to delete unnecessary words to improve flow. Here is an example: Before: “Grindor took hold of the hollow yak horn and guzzled the last of the water as it poured down his chin.” After: “Grindor took hold of the hollow yak horn and guzzled it dry.”

This all may sound rather simple, but once we began discussing substantive changes to my story, a whole other level of analysis was presented to me. In discussing my monster, Derek made me think about its entire ecology – always comparing to known living organisms to be able to bring familiar elements into the creature’s description. For example, extending tongues are normally sticky rather than prehensile (with a few exceptions like giraffes and ant eaters). But what really needed consideration was the day-to-day life of my monster. What (and how much) does it normally eat? How often does it live in water? How far inland does it travel? Basically, he wanted me to put as much thought into this monster as I do with my main characters.

Derek also introduced me to a new form of outlining after you’ve finished the chapter/passage/etc. He reduced an entire battle scene to 6 bullets. All he did was capture the behavior/reactions of a tribe of fighters during a fight to evaluate if their actions in battle were warranted or not. He claims this style of outlining is most effective to “do it by going back and constructing it from what you’ve actually written, not what you’d planned to write at the outset. It makes it very easy to discover whether you’ve put everything in the correct place—especially important in the age of cut-and-paste, where things can get moved with a couple keystrokes, and it becomes altogether too easy to separate items or leave one thing stranded after you’ve moved another.”

In addition, I have a dramatic reveal at the end of my story, but I had a difficult time making it feel as dramatic as I had intended. Derek commented that, “what you need is to convince the reader it’s that important to the character(s), whether it would be that important to anyone else in a similar situation—so it doesn’t need to be high melodrama.”  I ended up suggesting a new reveal, and together, we were able to craft it to a much better ending to my story about the forming of a unique friendship.

He was very impressed by my openness to his proposed revisions and so I thought I should share this one last quote from Derek: “In my experience, there are two main kinds of writers: the kind who are defensive about what they’ve written, and the kind who care enough about their writing to want to improve it and are willing to learn. The former are rarely successful.”

While these are the larger lessons learned, there were many subtle nuggets of wisdom that I captured from this experience. If you have any further questions, please leave them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them.

 

The Ravenous Flock Part 2 is Published

The epic conclusion to my short story, The Ravenous Flock, is finally published! Myths Inscribed ezine makes it available for free to read on their website and also through the Google Currents app (by subscribing to Myths Inscribed).

Later, I will discuss my experiences with working with an editor, but for now, please enjoy the conclusion to The Ravenous Flock. Click below:

The Ravenous Flock, part 2