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.

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.