Birth Pains

Why do I write?

You know what? Writing a book is hard work. Getting anything accomplished when your internal editor is screaming at you the entire time is like trying to do a month’s worth of grocery shopping while three mischievous toddlers are stealing things out of the cart and then hiding them in all the wrong places around the store.

Actually, I’ve never had that experience but it sounded really good – before I put it down on virtual paper.

Oh, well…

You know what else? Writing a book is also a lot of fun and rewarding on a personal level. It’s especially nice when your beta readers tell you that they enjoyed reading it and are looking forward to the next installment.

black trunks of leaf-bare trees set against a lurid sunset with red-tinted clouds.
I would like to use a photo like this for the cover of the second novel, Wyldling Quest.

There are so many elements that I want to incorporate into the Wyldling Series. I have had so many ideas over the years that finishing the series was a daunting task, because my conception of what the story was really about kept changing as I matured. Finally, I had to put my foot down and say: “That’s it. Enough’s enough! Just write the blasted thing, already!” Breaking it up into six or seven books instead of writing it as a single novel has also helped.

Once I made a decision to turn it into a young adult fantasy series the path became clearer. I had defined my audience. But how to make it different from every other YA fantasy out there? Well, how many fantasy series do you know about that have a strong and overt Christian theme? By overt I mean that there are direct quotations from the Bible and characters that talk about Jesus Christ and believe in Him as their savior.

Please let me know if you find any fantasy books like that. I mean it. I would like to read them. I figure that there aren’t that many out there because I can’t find them. They certainly aren’t on the bestseller list on Amazon.

No, not anything by J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis. I’m talking about recent young adult Christian fantasy.

I am aware of fantasy series that have good moral themes and point vaguely toward Christianity or have characters that resemble Christ as an archetype. However, there is no mention of the real Jesus or how badly people need to be saved from their own depravity. Many of these stories promote the idea that most people are basically good with some bad tendencies that can be overcome with hard work and the best intentions -with some help from our Heavenly Friend, of course! – because that is what we all truly want to believe, isn’t it?

I realize that these authors – even the ones that are Christians -probably did not intentionally set out to write a book that included Christian themes for the purposes of leading others to Christ. When it comes right down to it, there just doesn’t seem to be much of a market for that type of fantasy novel. In the publishing business, like in any other business, money talks. Very loudly.

I like to think that authors write books because they want to tell an entertaining story that was burning in their hearts and crying out for release into the world. It’s a like having a baby (and I can honestly say that because I have given birth to and raised children).

“There is no greater pain than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Maya Angelou

Quite frequently, I find myself thinking about my story and what I am going to write next. It is an obsession. I should be finding more work to do for my job, but I’m day-dreaming up plot points. I should be trying to fall asleep, but my brain is busy constructing witty dialogue and dramatic scenes. I should be doing housework, but I need to write. I should be weeding the garden (such as it is) but I need to write. Presently, I look at the clock and realize that it is past dinner-time, I should really cook something for my boys …

But I need to write!

I need to write because the people living inside of my head are begging me to tell their stories. And they won’t shut up until I do.

When I hear people talking about current events, or T.V. shows, or debating the strengths and weaknesses of sports teams, I often cannot relate, because my mind isn’t even on the same planet.

I am wandering around somewhere on Tehara.

People have gone into therapy for help in managing smaller obsessions, I’m sure, let alone an entire planet.

Other writers out there: do you know what I’m talking about?

On with the Quest

Tentative cover art for the second novel. It needs something…I don’t know…maybe some characters?
I decided to take a risk by making the plot less boring.

While the first installment of the Wyldling series – Wyldling Snare – is out to be ripped into shreds by the beta readers, I have not put my writing on hold. On the contrary, I have continued writing the sequel, tentatively entitled Wyldling Quest. The narrative picks up where the first book leaves off – on a cliffhanger. If you hate that sort of thing, do not fret, because I will most likely publish the second book within six months of the first, God willing. Based on my outline thus far, it will have roughly 25 chapters, plus a prologue and an epilogue. Currently, I have written the prologue and four complete chapters and even now I am in the midst of crafting a fifth chapter.

Naturally, this is a first draft of the second revision of the original work that I finished over a year ago. Maybe someone would have found the original version an entertaining read; I, however, thought that the heroine was spending too much time moping around and not accomplishing much of anything. Sitting around and bemoaning her impotence to effect change for three chapters is not the way to write an adventure story! BORING! A heroine ought to be out doing things as quickly as possible in the book, don’t you think? She needs to ACT.

As a result, I decided to allow her to misbehave a little – with a little nudge from the most mischievous of the supporting characters. In the original version, the heroine was in the main a sullen passive observer who was kept in obedient ignorance by her guardians. Yes, she is new to this world (a fish out of water character type) so there will still be that observatory element in the new version but I plan to make her less whiny and more proactive in proving her dependability to the other characters. She still begins as the character I made her to be – a sensitive and cautious sixteen year old girl with self esteem issues – but if she is really so anxious to rescue the hero from his captors, then she had better put on her big girl pants, stop complaining, and get on with it!

I can laugh at myself now for being so rigid as to adhere to my original expectations for the story – which were unrealistic, to say the least. And I don’t mean in the sense of fantasy or magic, I mean unrealistic as to character actions and interactions. Yes, the action takes place on a different planet, but even in a fantasy novel people should still behave in recognizable patterns. For example, if you were a military leader and you wanted to keep it a secret that the heir apparent to the throne has been abducted and a girl from another world has simultaneously appeared in the place from whence he was taken, you wouldn’t allow your underlings to throw a party and invite everyone in the village to meet her. Apparently my twenty year old self believed that a reader would suspend their disbelief in this circumstance.

Inevitably, by making the changes that I did, I changed the course of a story. I chopped out nearly a quarter of what I had worked so hard to craft and hone over the years. However, when you are a writer you must make sacrifices so that the story can flow in a direction that is entertaining while somewhat plausible. Were there instances of humorous, quirky dialogue and darling creative descriptions that did not escape my chopping block? Of course there were. And I do not delude myself into believing that everything I keep will survive a professional editor’s critical eye when the time comes.

So that’s my update. As always, I hope that in sharing my progress, somewhere in my rambling, shameless self-indulgence that there was something that might help another aspiring author.

A Book with 2 Prologues

I was kind of in shock after I completed editing the final chapter of Wyldling Snare this afternoon. I didn’t know what to feel. I just…sat there for a minute. I said to myself: “Well, there’s Revision Number Two.” I certainly never thought: “Yippee! This is actually done, now. Who wants a cupcake to celebrate?”

This was after I spent nearly three hours writing an alternative prologue that I believe is okay but doesn’t really fit into the narrative that follows. The original prologue takes place about fourteen years before the events of the novel and is roughly ten pages long (double-spaced.) It is from the point of view of a character that does not play a role in the events of the Wyldling series, but it introduces several important characters that you meet at some point early in the series, if not in the first book. The action takes place during an evacuation from a garrison town that’s about to be overrun by a vicious enemy, so the narrative is gritty, fast-paced and reeks of desperation.

The new prologue is three pages long (double-spaced) and takes place concurrently with the first chapter. It is a dream sequence from the point of view of an important character that you meet in the middle of the first novel. No names are used. It is almost the antithesis of the original prologue. There is no sense of danger or violence, only curiosity and vague yearning. I portray the scene in a mysterious fashion – the narrator is dreaming, and realizes it – but I’m not sure that it really adds anything to the story, or that the prose is compelling enough to encourage someone to read further.

Why, you ask, would I waste my time writing a different prologue – especially something I consider so-so at best? Because two out of three people who read my original prologue said it was too “dark” or “sad.” One of them – whom I shall refer to as R.M. – did not want to read any further because he claimed it made him feel depressed.

I wanted to try a different approach with the new prologue. Make it less “deathy,” or something. Well, I’m not sure that’s going to work. I’m writing a sword and sorcery type fantasy novel for young adults, not a chapter book for young children about a magic tree house. Now, I’m not dissing the Magic Tree House series – far from it; I think they’re great books – but that isn’t the sort of audience I’m writing for at the moment.

Perhaps the new prologue served its purpose, after all: now R.M. has decided that the original prologue is actually okay. Or, at least, he thinks the original is more suitable for the novel than the new one – the three pages that I worked so hard on this afternoon and enjoyed writing because I thought I was being so mysterious and clever with my descriptions without actually naming the characters.

Sigh

When it comes to critiquing and editing, I am definitely my own worst enemy.

Oh well. I’ll ask the beta readers to read both of them. They can tell me which works best for the book.

Or maybe neither will make the cut. Who says that I need to have a prologue, anyway? Jim Butcher doesn’t include a prologue in any of the Dresden Files novels and people still love reading them.

Speaking of which, I can hardly wait for Peace Talks to come out…

Apropos of nothing, here is a picture of a cat sitting on my Bible study questions so that I can no longer work on them.

Doctor thinks it is time to stop working and start paying attention to him, instead.