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.

Progress on Wyldling Snare?

Okay, so this whole process is turning out to take longer than I hoped it would!

Yes, I suppose I can say that I completed the first draft by the end of last month. Woohoo! Yay me?

I thought that I would be done with the first round of edits/revision by the middle of February, and then I could ask the few folks who volunteered to read through it. You know, beta readers (just like Jim Butcher.) I figured, the way I was constantly revising my work almost as soon as I wrote it – which I do NOT recommend and counsel sternly against doing – that it should be “pretty okay,” as my eldest son would say.

Wrong!

Currently, we are a quarter of the way into the month and I have plowed through “editing” only eight out of twenty-three “chapters.” Things are…complicated. There were some areas where the narrative was inconsistent. That’s what happens when you revise at the same time that you are “creating,” people! You get this cool idea to include in the first chapter and then you forget to carry it through down the road. For example, you change one major detail about a character and suddenly the scenes you already wrote including him/her that take place a hundred pages later suddenly don’t work. Or you decide to cut out a bunch of exposition from chapter three (because you decide it’s boring) and realize that the actions that the characters take (or don’t take, in this case) in chapter seven no longer makes sense.

Now, I would never rank the complexity of my story on the same level as, say, Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, but the Wyldling series is still a complicated enough story that I probably need a spreadsheet to keep track of character arcs and objects and whatnot. Unlike the late, great Robert Jordan -may he rest in peace (and thank you to Brandon Sanderson for finishing that wonderfully rich behemoth of a series!)- I decided to limit the point-of-view narrative in Wyldling Snare to three main characters (two Wyldling protagonists and a villain). That will change later on in the series, because (spoilers!) I will introduce more Wyldling characters as the story marches on. Eventually there will be more than three storylines. So maybe I end up emulating Mr. Robert Jordan, after all? I can’t remember how many storylines he wove into the fabric of his magnum opus, but it was definitely more than three! Probably more like twenty – some of which EVENTUALLY converge – and only three or four of the storylines were actually resolved. But don’t quote me on that; it’s been a while since I read The Wheel of Time. Like, years. Man, but that was a good, long series. All the books are still sitting on my shelf…

Hmmm.

But I digress! Which shouldn’t be possible in a blog, right? Most people would edit that stuff out, right? Not me! I am saving all of that editorial power for my book. This is all just rambling, now, so I should shut up and get back to work. Okay, self, back to the first order of business: the revision process!

Further bulletins as events warrant.

May the LORD bless your day, and my efforts.

Thanks for sticking with me so far! To reward you for your patience, here’s a cute picture of Graefin trying to snooze on top of bath towels in my bathroom.

Almost there…

…stay on target!
There is a light at the end of the tunnel!

Yes, I just paraphrased Star Wars: A New Hope. So sue me. I love that movie. It inspires me.

In any event, I think that I am finally getting somewhere with Wyldling Snare!

As I mentioned in a previous post, this novel is to be the first installment of a five or six book series – all of which will have “Wyldling” in the title. I had a large part of this series already written in a ponderous tome entitled The Grand Illusion, but I felt that I needed to rework that behemoth into a series of separate books. This is the twenty-first century, not the nineteenth century. No one wants to slog through my rendition of Tolstoy’s War and Peace (no, I haven’t actually read it – although I have read Anna Karenina.)

Right now, I am still in this writing/reworking phase. My goal is to have the first draft completed by the New Year – and I believe that this is an attainable goal. There, I defined my goal. I set a deadline. I even wrote it down and shared it with other people…in this blog. Hooray! I made a few baby steps toward accomplishing something! Even if it turns out to be utter malarkey!

If I had to quantify my progress, I would have to venture a guess. Three-quarters done? Perhaps even more, since much of the book is already written. Five out of roughly twenty-five chapters left to rework, and one earlier chapter that requires additional prose.

I suppose I have to ask the question: technically speaking, is this a first draft or a second draft that I am currently working on? Part of me responds “who cares?” but another part of me likes to be accurate and precise. I could call the manuscript a second draft in the sense that much of it was already written. However, it is a first draft in the sense that other eyes have not yet critiqued it.

Mea culpa! I am guilty of trying to edit and revise simultaneously as I craft the story -which is a big no-no for a writer who actually wants to finish a novel.

My advice: write everything down – without judgment! – and then go back to revise it. You are your own worst critic. Stop listening to that nasty, paranoid voice and just WRITE.

Even if it ends up sounding like utter malarkey.

I agree with Voltaire

Perfectionism = Procrastination.

“Perfect is the enemy of good.” —Voltaire

Recently, one of my friends handed me a printout of an article by Tim Herrera of the New York Times: “It’s Never Going to Be Perfect, So Just Get It Done.” It’s a good read, and I really identified with what he wrote.

You know…I could be wrong, but I think that she was trying to tell me something.

So here I am feeling kinda bad about how little I have accomplished on my novel thus far. I have been reworking the first installment of the Wyldling Series for the past several months, which translates into me rewriting everything to fit into the new paradigm. Every time I feel that I’ve made some progress, suddenly my brain vomits forth some new, cool idea about something I really should’ve included in a previous chapter. This is how the original version of my novel became so cumbersome and part of the reason why it is taking me so long to finish (that, and over-editing.)

I’ve found a way to discipline myself on this front – just a little bit.

In order to keep myself from sliding off the Cliffs of Insanity and into shrieking eel-infested waters, I simply make a note of every new idea in the book outline and then move on reworking each chapter, one at a time. I don’t lose those ideas and actual progress is made. And if it turns out that an outside editor thinks the current idea as written sucks, I can pull a second or third stringer off the bench to try out.

It’s slow going, but all is working out according to the plan.

I ask myself: So, you have an actual plan? That’s great! What is it?

Myself responds: Um…to finish writing my book and then try to get it published?

I: Yeah, but have you set some achievable goals?

Myself: Huh? Goals? What are those?

I: *sighs in exasperation* Then, how about at east setting a deadline for yourself?

Myself: Well, you know what they say about deadlines…

I: Now you’re just making excuses!

Myself: Yes. Yes, I am.

Me: Hey, guys! Feeling a mite peckish, here. Let’s get some Doritos!

Beware folks, for Perfectionism = Procrastination.

See, if I want to finish the book, there comes a point when I will have to say “good enough” and find an editor to help me get the manuscript ready to publish. It all comes down to fear, really. If I never finish it, then I don’t have to go through the agony of having my book rejected a gazillion times by literary agents and publishers. Yes, I am going to try traditional publishing first, even though I realize it will probably be a no-go all around. I’ve told myself that I want to start a huge collection of rejection letters. Keep a portfolio or a scrapbook of’em and everything.

But first, I have to stop procrastinating, tell the Internal Editor to SHUT UP and finish the *bleeping* book!

On that note, I’m off to take Tim Herrera’s advice.

 

Inaccurate statistics make for great writing prompts

“Last year in the US alone more than nine hundred thousand people were reported missing and not found…out of about three hundred million, total population. That breaks down to about one person in three hundred and twenty-five vanishing. Every year…Maybe it’s a coincidence, but it’s almost the same loss ratio experienced by herd animals on the African savannah to large predators.”

— Harry Dresden in Dead Beat by Jim Butcher, published in 2005.

“Actually, no, Harry,” I retort, rather disdainfully. “That loss ratio on the African savannah number is probably at least an order of magnitude higher than 0.3%. Maybe even more.* However,” I add in a softer tone, “I completely understand what you’re getting at.”

— Me…had I actually been there. ***sighs wistfully***

*No sources cited, don’t have to, na na na boo boo. I have a Masters of Science in Applied Ecology, so there!

It turns out that there are a number of other folks on the interwebs world who have already commented on this highly provocative quote and thought it “sounded correct.” One or two people actually did a little research on the statistic and did not agree.

***Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that Dead Beat is a novel, i.e. a work of fiction. Facts can appear to be grossly distorted because this story takes place in a different, albeit very similar, universe to our own. The big hint is that magic exists and there is any number of supernatural entities gadding about causing trouble for our wizardly hero, Harry Dresden, and generally raising Cain. Suspension of disbelief is essential, people!***

Obviously, Dresden’s example is a bit melodramatic – not to mention grossly inaccurate – but Harry is trying to clue in Waldo Butters to the dangers of the supernatural world. He uses the disturbing statistic trope to explain to Butters why the majority of people who have a close call might choose to rationalize events, deny whatever happened, and simply pretend the supernatural world doesn’t exist instead of going public about it. This conversation takes place shortly after the zombie attack in the morgue. Zombies, ick. What a horrible introduction to the things that go bump in the night. Personally, I think I’d rather deal with werewolves than zombie-wielding necromancers. Werewolves are way cooler, for one thing. At least, the Alphas version of the werewolf in the Dresden Files Universe is pretty awesome. Who wouldn’t want to be able to autonomously turn into a wolf while retaining human-level reasoning ability? Heck, yeah! Count me in.

Anyway, out of curiosity I just went online and did a search for the number of people reported missing annually in the USA. First, I found a transcript for a 2013 NPR broadcast entitled “The Majority of Missing Person Cases are Resolved,” in which they interviewed the director of communications for the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. He claims that in 2012, there were 661,000 cases reported for missing people, but the vast majority of these were quickly canceled, leaving them with 2,079 unresolved missing person cases (3.145%).

And then I did a little more digging. The actual number of missing person cases filed in the US was 830,325 in 2004 according to the NCIC. I don’t know if this statistic represents missing person reports that are new starting in that year or is a cumulative total of open cases at the time. Probably the latter, but the website doesn’t specify unless you pay for the privilege of knowing. Therefore, Harry was definitely exaggerating the number by incorrectly rounding up but don’t be too hard on him. Most people who aren’t mathematically challenged would have done the same to make their point. As you know, 85% of statistics are made up on the spot.

In any event, if the proportion of reported cases to actual unresolved cases remains more or less constant year to year, that means that there were about 28,800 unresolved missing persons cases “last year” in the Dresden Files Universe. Yikes. Of course, this number is not taking into account the resolved cases where missing people are actually found dead. These folks MIGHT have been killed by supernatural predators.

Hmm…what if supernatural predators really DO exist?

Double yikes.

Hamlet: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Hamlet by William Shakespeare.

Spot on, Billy Bard. Spot on.

All ghostly gibbering aside, how can anyone NOT love Shakespeare?

 

There ain’t nothing wrong with the Radio

Another influence on my writing that cannot be ignored is music. Before I can go into detail about that I should lay out the groundwork and give you a little historical background – just as I did with my reading preferences.

Much like my reading preferences, my listening preferences have also evolved. My music collection can best be described as “eclectic.” If I commanded a spaceship it would be named MusicStar Eclectica.

As a youngster, I listened primarily to whatever was on the radio. My parents’ tastes pretty much dictated what was available to me, but I discovered fairly early on that I did not care for country music, which was what my dad listened to, pretty much exclusively – except for when he decided to really annoy us all by listening to the polka station. Now, I don’t have anything against polka music. I think it’s great to dance to; whenever I hear polka my feet start itching to hop around. However, listening to polka for hours on end strikes me as a form of audible torture. The same goes for country music. There are some songs that I like – primarily by the late great Johnny Cash, now that I think about it – for various reasons, but much of it does not appeal to me.

My tastes in music as a child tended to align more with my mother’s. I liked the music that she enjoyed listening to in high school. And I still do. I’m talking about Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, the Who, Styx, Steppenwolf, and The Grass Roots, to name a few. I have fond memories of listening to her vinyl records by these artists when I was in middle school. But my love of music goes back even further than that. In fact, one of my very first memories is of listening to a Styx 8-track on the stereo while watching our dog trotting over to the front door from the kitchen.

My mom and I both liked rock and roll from the 1980s, too, but that was the stuff that I grew up listening to, so it was more my bag than hers. I still liked the older stuff, but I added artists such as The Cars, Madonna, Talking Heads, Cyndi Lauper, Toto, Billy Joel and the Police to my favorites playlist. As a caveat, when I was pre-school age, “Burning down the House” by the Talking Heads was the song that I was most obsessed with, probably because I was going through a pyrophobia phase at the time. My mom tells me that when we went to see Bambi in the theater, she had to drag me outside during the forest fire scene because I started screaming in terror. I remember having awful nightmares about fires a little later on after my brother was born…but now I’m going off on a tangent. Maybe I’ll examine my childhood fire fixation in conjunction with sibling anxiety in the future, just not right now.

Here’s an interesting fact: I never got into Bruce Springsteen, even though my mom loved him and had a sizeable vinyl record collection of his work. I can’t explain it. My apologies to any Springsteen fans out there. I’m sure he’s a perfectly decent guy, but something about him creeped me out back then.

In any event, by the time I was in fifth grade, I had already discovered the joys of audio cassette tapes (remember those???) and recording my favorite songs on the radio. I believe it was around this time that I also learned about the Beatles, thanks to a documentary video (also, remember VHS tapes???) that one of my uncles gave me for Christmas. Like many an impressionable young girl before me, I fell in love with the Fab Four. I found out that certain radio stations still played songs by the Beatles, and by the time I was in middle school I was spending a lot of time listening to “oldies.” At that time, oldies music was anything from before the 1970s, and “classic” was ‘70s and early ’80s music. (I realize that the current definition of oldies now also encompasses the music that I grew up listening to. Cripes, do I feel old!)

I spent a lot of time during my “tween” years listening to popular music on the radio and recording my most favorite songs on cassette tapes. I was given cassette tapes of my favorite artist as gifts and spent my hard-earned allowance on them. Still ’70s and ‘80s music, but since time marches ever onward my musical taste eventually expanded to include the music of the 1990s as well – but not as much as you might expect. In fact, my pattern of musical attraction seems to follow a retrograde path. For the longest time, I was obsessed with a certain cassette tape of Queen’s greatest hits, and another cassette live album of INXS. I tended to prefer the older stuff. I usually lagged a little behind my cohort in embracing popular trends, if I did so at all. I suppose I was always an “old soul.” Or maybe just an “odd soul.”

I was well into high school before I got into grunge bands like Nirvana. Somehow, despite my sheltered and innocent life, I learned about Rammstein. I owned a grand total of one album by them: Sehnsucht. On CD, of course (it took me a little while, but I did finally convert to purchasing CDs after cassettes become rare and more difficult to find). I even remember buying that Rammstein CD from a store in the local mall. One of my older male friends had driven me there so that I could obtain it (currently, I own most of Rammstein’s albums in the mp3 format).

By the time I graduated from college, I owned quite a few CDs and more than 30 cassette tapes that I stubbornly clung to. It was only after I married my husband that I came into contact with those enlightened folk who “downloaded” music from the internet and/or ripped music from CDs to store on their computers. I never got into the whole Napster movement; I felt it was unethical even before it became illegal. However, my eyes were opened to the possibility that technology had to offer for expanding my music collection without having to buy more and ever larger containers in which to store CDs.

To paraphrase Bob Dylan, the times they were a-changin’.

At present, I have close to 1000 songs that I ripped from my CDs and my husband’s on to my laptop –  plus we have over 800 songs in our Amazon cloud. Thanks to one of my husband’s friends who had a song by Apoptygma Berzerk on his hard-drive I really got into electronic music about ten years ago. And thanks to Pandora I found tons of other electronic acts that I enjoy. Now, keep in mind that I still like all the stuff that I grew up listening to on the radio and don’t necessarily “have” in my collection. This means that I probably love over 1500 songs, spanning multiple genres of music. I don’t know if that’s a big number or not.

I could go on and on, but this entry is growing too long to be interesting anymore and I haven’t even said anything about how my musical tastes have affected my writing. I suppose – in summary – just like my reading preferences my taste in music went through phases.

As did my writing.

To make a long story short, I guess I’m just one of those people who really gets into music and isn’t too particular about “type,” just what tickles my fancy or resonates with me. And as much as I love utilizing apps like Pandora and Spotify to discover new favorite songs, I still enjoy listening to whatever is playing on the radio (my favorite local station is Life 102.5.)

Are you one of those people, too? Which artists or genres are your favorites?