WIPika Fridays: What Draft Is This Again?

Another week, another bit of productivity.

First on the block is the editing for “The Lone Blue Strand” for Fictionvale. I received the edits on Sunday night, and have spent an hour or so every day this week working on it. There’s still a little bit left to do tomorrow, but for all intents and purposes it’s finished. I’ll send it off tomorrow morning and wait for the second round of edits to come back my way.

Second accomplishment has been the short story codenamed “Evaporated Ocean.” It’s actually a rewrite of a short story I wrote back in 2012 that didn’t go anywhere with publishers. Looking back on it, I understand why: it’s unreadable! There are aspects of it that are neat (Such as the setting), but the characterization and plot were blah. Not coherent in any way, shape, or form. The core setting is largely the same, but the characters and plot have been changed almost completely. I’ve completed three outlines of it, and have started on what could be the second/third draft of it. I plan to finish that tomorrow, and then Sunday work on heavy edits for it.

First line from it:

Jisan paced along the dry ocean floor.

The name of the story will have nothing to do with evaporated anything, so I hope the idea of the ocean floor being anything other than wet will stand out to readers and make them want to continue on. I try to start my stories either with a conflict, or with a strange premise that grabs them. Don’t know that I succeed at it, but I know I’m a lot better than I used to be.

That’s something I should post up one day. A list of story first lines, from my earliest works to now. Should be amusing for somebody, at least.

The novel outlining has had its ups and downs this week. I’ve completed more than I probably would have had I not been on any sort of schedule, but I’ve officially gotten behind. I don’t know that I’ll be able to make up any time Saturday, but Sunday I will have to put my nose to the grindstone and get caught up. Even if it takes all afternoon and evening, it’ll have to get done! Fortunately we have leftover pizza that we made last week, so dinner’s sorted.

Where reading’s concerned, I’m also behind. I had hoped to finish with Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson before the weekend, but that’s just not happening. Same goes with Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman. I want to take my time with them and really read them, so it’s taking longer than expected. Alas.

Still, not bad for the second full week of adjusting to a new writing schedule. I need to hold onto this level of productivity, and ratchet it up. As long as I don’t slide backward, it’s all good from here.

Writing in Public 2015: Day 15, Month 1

Today was another day where not everything went according to plan, but a good bit of work still managed to get done. Let’s see what happened:

  • Short Story Writing: I decided not to finish the rough draft of “Evaporated Oceans” and instead focused on a revised outline based on what I already knew of the story. It shaped up quite nicely, with the appropriate (I hope) amount of rises and falls in the action, and a satisfying climax. The story is really about two friends reconciling with one another, but it’s set on the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world and a dangerous situation. Tomorrow morning I will dive into the second draft and get all of it written before lunch. That’s my goal, and I’m sticking to it! I’m estimating it will be around 15 pages or so.
  • Short Story Editing: I’m down to the last couple of scenes in “The Lone Blue Strand” before I go back and finish up any other areas I thought were soft. It’s amazing how you can write and rewrite something, and it’s not until much, much later that you realize what you wrote doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. At least, not in parts. That was the bulk of today’s edits. Not the edits given, but things I noticed and wanted to change. Cutting a paragraph here, adding a couple there. It’s shaping up nicely, though!
  • Novel Outlining: Today began what Karen Wiesner calls the story evolution process in her book “First Draft in 30 Days.” During the next two or three days I’ll be going over the scene outline and my other notes to determine – and then tweak – the overall flow of the story, from the first mentioning of conflict and the story’s goal to the climax and resolution of the tale. All in all, it’s around 29 different points spread across Beginning, Middle, and End. I didn’t have as much afternoon time as I would have liked today, so I could only tackle the first 3 points in the Beginning. That is, a description of the initial conflict that starts off the story, a description of the true story goal (Not minor subplot goals and the short-term goals), and a description of the main protagonists who will attempt to achieve the story goal. This is likely an area that will be revised and edited as I go through the points in the Middle and End, so I’m curious to see how everything will turn out in the end. This is an area where I absolutely do not want to rush or screw things up. The last thing I want to do is get to the end of the rough draft and realize I’ll need to rewrite at least half of it from scratch because it needs to go in a completely different direction.
  • Nonfiction Reading: I read a little bit more of Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman, and likely won’t get to read any more until Saturday.
  • Fiction Reading: Now six chapters into my rereading of Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. Enjoying every page of it so far!

 

Blog Posts: 485
Planning and outlining: 1,391
Short Fiction: 0
Novel Fiction: 0
Salable words: 0

Total Fiction for Month: 10,550

Total Salable for Month: 1,000

Total Fiction for Challenge Year: 10,550

Total Salable for Challenge Year: 1,000

Writing in Public 2015: Day 14, Month 1

  • Short Story Writing: It had been my intent to finish the rough draft for “Evaporated Ocean” today, but it didn’t happen. Got sidetracked completely by other things, namely outlining the novel. I’m trying to break up my day into three big chunks: short stories in the morning (Planning, writing, and editing), novel in the afternoon, and reading in the evening. Rigid adherence to this will likely be impossible, but it’s a good goal to push for. If I run out of time for one activity, shift gears to the next activity and keep going. Make up for lost time later.
  • Short Story Editing: I’m 3/4 through the first round of edits of “The Lone Blue Strand” for Fictionvale. I expect to finish the last couple of scenes tomorrow, and then Friday I’ll go back through it again to see if there were any soft spots that I either didn’t touch on, or didn’t notice before.
  • Novel Outlining: I’ve finished the first scene-by-scene outline for the first Wendigo novel. The story is currently coming in at around 90,000 planned words, or 360 pages. Already I see areas where this can be tightened and made more dramatic, so I’m looking forward to the next run-through on the outline. I’m going to continue forward with the plan from Karen Wiesner’s “First Draft in 30 Days” and see where we get with that before I go back and edit the outline. Once again, it’s getting me excited for the actual drafting process to come. But, I don’t want to rush it. The next two weeks or so are critical to getting this outline as close to perfect as possible. That’ll mean a lot less time wasted in the drafting – and then editing – process.
  • Nonfiction Reading: I’m halfway through Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman. This book is great. The chapter I’m currently wrapping up is the longest one detailing the outlining process. He uses Ken Follett’s The Man From St. Petersburg as his example, and goes through four different outlines for the book. It’s amazing what changed between the original draft idea and the final outline. It’s also heartening for anyone writing something for the first time (Be it their first novel ever or just the first time on this particular novel) because there are a lot of weak areas in the original draft, things I noticed immediately that I could tie into the outline I’m working on currently.
  • Fiction Reading: Three chapters into my rereading of Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. Still as great as I remember it, and it’s been years. I’m trying to go through it at a slower pace this time around, to analyze story structure, character development, dialogue, etc. So far, an illuminating journey.

 

Blog Posts: 869
Planning and outlining: 2,847
Short Fiction: 0
Novel Fiction: 0
Salable words: 0

Total Fiction for Month: 10,550

Total Salable for Month: 1,000

Total Fiction for Challenge Year: 10,550

Total Salable for Challenge Year: 1,000

Drafty Wednesdays: A Look at “Snowmelt”

Yes, I still haven’t come up with a working title for this viking-esque romp. I’m not fully finished with the story yet, so that’s probably why. Sometimes story titles refuse to come to me until I’m ready to push it out the door. Not sure if that’s laziness on my part or if I’m just bad at naming things. Either way, here we are.

I’m deviating from the (currently) established norm and will not show the opening scene to the story. Instead, I want to illustrate how well a fight scene can turn out once it’s gone from crappy rough draft to less crappy second draft to hopefully brilliant (At the very least, passable) final draft.

In this fight scene, Ylva (the protagonist) is facing off against Randolf, a subordinate challenging one of her decisions to the point of questioning her leadership entirely. She is an experienced shieldmaiden and has only just recently been made jarl of her town, following the death of her father. A more established jarl could get away with not accepting a challenge, but not in her case. So, the duel goes on.

This is my first time writing a fight scene since reading the book Writing Fight Scenes. In it, Rayne Hall breaks fights/battles/scuffles/violent action into six main areas:

  • Suspense – the proverbial calm before the storm.
  • Start – what it says. The opening blows, the opponents sizing each other up, etc.
  • Action – the fight begins in earnest.
  • Surprise – optional depending on type of fight, but adds depth. Could be anything from a sword shattering to a monsoon occurring.
  • Climax – the final, decisive moves.
  • Aftermath – the winner dusts himself off, spouts a noir-worthy one-liner, and heads off for the next big hurrah.

I would love to show the whole fight here, as its final version is no more than 820 words from the very beginning of the Suspense phase (Even a bit before it, really) to the part where the victory has to choose whether to slay the defeated or not. But, since I’m going to be shopping this around to some professional magazines, I’d rather not shoot myself in the literary foot for revealing too much. Instead, the Start, Action and Surprise phases will be shown.

Rough Draft:

Start:

They circled one another, each holding their shields close, but with the rims facing their opponent. She had learned from her father long ago to do it

Fight:

Randolf struck first, his axe head whistling through the air. Ylva stepped back. He swung again, too fast to dodge. She caught it on her shield. The blow reverberated up her arm. She hissed, and thrust with her sword, inside his shield guard. He jumped back. She pursued.

She pushed him back with a flurry of well-placed blows. She aimed at his thighs, his abdomen, his weapon hand. He dodged or caught the strikes on his shield. They approached the challenge ring’s edge. The crowd roared.

Randolf growled, and struck with his axe. Gods, he was fast. She blocked one blow, and then another.

Surprise:

A third strike connected. Her shield split, the axe blade held fast in the wood.

“Not even the Kraken could break that!” someone yelled.

A flash of anger ran through Ylva. Her father had given her this shield! She twisted and wrenched the axe from Randolf’s grip. She threw shield and weapon away.

Badly written, right? Well, that’s what rough drafts are for. Too much information (Does it really matter exactly how they’re holding their shields? They’re holding them. The reader can imagine it how they like), too many passive verbs (Was/Were). It’s also a bit lacking for a fight between individuals who are well-matched against one another, one with strength (Randolf) and the other with experience (Ylva). There’s also not much in the way of emotion on either’s part.

But, the basic structure is there. Let’s see what we can do to make it a bit better:

Second Draft:

Suspense:

They retreated a couple of steps, and then circled one another. Ylva kept her feet close to the ground, her boots clinging to the hard-packed dirt until she needed to move them. The crowd kept silent. No one wanted to miss the first strike.

Action:

Despite his earlier confidence, Randolf moved in cautiously. Ylva took advantage of his hesitance and slashed at his axe-hand. He jerked away and deflected her blade with the rim of his shield. He raised his axe to strike her, but stabbed just as he opened his guard. The point tore through his shirt and cut his chest. He grunted.

“First blood to the Jarl!” Tyr shouted, his voice almost lost over the screaming crowd.

Ylva tried to press her advantage, but Randolf counterattacked. The veins in his neck and head stood out as he advanced. His axe rose and fell in a flurry of blows. Ylva dodged some, but blocked others with her shield. The repeated impacts reverberated up her arm. Her shoulder grew numb.

Surprise:

Randolf swung again. Ylva raised her shield. Woodchips sprayed. He tried to jerk the blade free, but it held fast. She wrenched the shield back. The axe came with it. She flung shield and weapon away.

In this version another character, Tyr, is introduced. He’s basically the town priest and the one who oversees such challenges to the jarl’s authority. In this instance he’s part referee, part announcer.

So, it’s gotten better, even if not by much. There’s a definite build-up of action, and passive verbs have taken their peace-loving hippy ways elsewhere. While they’re all right in other scenes, they won’t do in action scenes. Or, I should say they’ll rarely do. There are few absolutes in writing, after all.

Now, for this last one – the final draft as of now – I’ll show just a bit more of the surprise phase. I decided on having two surprises during this fight: one where Ylva seems to gain the upper hand, one where Randolf seems to take the advantage back. It finishes in a brutal climax shortly after, but hopefully it’ll make it somewhere so everyone can read it.

Final Draft:

Start:

Ylva and Randolf circled one another. She kept her feet close to the hard-packed dirt. He made wide steps, as if to remind her of their difference in size. The crowd kept silent. No one wanted to miss the first strike.

Action:

Randolf lunged forward. Ylva danced back. He struck again. The axe glanced off her shield. She slashed at his exposed arm. He twisted away and deflected her sword with the rim of his shield.

He raised his axe. His shield shifted slightly. She stabbed into that sudden gap. Her blade tore through his shirt and pricked his chest. He grunted. Blood stained the ripped cloth.

“First blood to the Jarl!” Tyr shouted. The townsmen cheered.

A line of crimson ran down the length of Ylva’s sword. Her dagger had looked the same that day. Her chest constricted. Hot guilt burned through her. She couldn’t let it touch her. Not again. She flicked the accursed liquid away with a wild swing.

Light flashed overhead. Panic seized her. Sindri’s knife? No, Randolf’s axe!

She snapped her shield up. His heavy blade slammed into scarred wood. The impact reverberated up her arm. Her shoulder ached.

The veins in Randolf’s neck and head stood out as he advanced. His axe rose and fell in a flurry of blows. Ylva’s arm went numb. She gasped for breath. Gods, he’s fast!

Surprise:

He swung again. The axe bit into her raised shield. Woodchips sprayed, and the blade held fast when he tried to jerk it free. Her shoulder screamed in protest. With a cry, she wrenched the shield back. The axe flew out of his hands. She flung both away.

The roar in her ears drowned out the roar of the crowd. She rotated her left shoulder to work the numbness out.

Even unarmed, Randolf continued to advance. She stabbed and slashed. He dodged and blocked with his shield. Her sword went wide.

He stepped inside her guard. His fist connected. Pain exploded in her jaw. She staggered back.

Randolf slammed into Ylva. His weight bore them both down. She landed hard on her back. Her sword skittered across the dirt. She reached for her dagger.

He pressed against her flesh and pinned her left hand to her side. His arm pushed against her throat. She struggled for air that would not come. He leered down at her.

Ylva’s right hand scrabbled through the dirt for something, anything. Her vision blurred, and darkened at the corners. Fear jolted through her.

Ok, so part of that last bit is the beginning of the climax phase. But, I figured that last sentence was the best place to stop. The most dramatic place, in any event. Our heroine is seemingly down for the count. How is she going to defeat him? What’s for dinner that night? Oh, wait, that last one doesn’t get covered here. Sorry. (That’s what I get for writing blog posts before dinner)

It was during this draft that I really tried adhering to the 6-part structure, and I think it’s turned out ten times better than the previous iterations because of it. Is it good enough to sell to someone? Well, I’d like to think so. But, I know more work can be done on it. More work can always be done.

Oh, if you’re wondering what the “Sindri’s knife?” line is about, Ylva is suffering from a little bit of PTSD from the last battle she was in. I won’t say more, but there are instances of this scattered throughout the short story, reminders for her of a recent event that she is ashamed and horrified of.Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this foray into fight scenes. At the very least, seeing how horrible my earlier drafts are should encourage anyone to get a rough draft out. Even if you think it’s terrible, realize this: it’s terrible for most of us! Get through it, and get to the editing. Editing is where the real writing begins. It’s where the magic happens.

So, there you have it. My first attempt at writing a fight scene in 2015. Did Rayne Hall’s book help me? I think so. I’ve always loved writing fight scenes, but I don’t think I fully understood how to account for the build-up of action and the general ebb and flow of chaotic situations. But, I’ll have more experience in a short while. I’m currently outlining a book that will have several fights in it. I expect I’ll showcase more of them here.

Hurray, more exposure for my crappy first drafts!

Writing in Public 2015: Day 13, Month 1

Today has been a day full of (mostly) uninterrupted writing and reading. Quite a bit was accomplished on multiple fronts:

  • Short Story Writing: I’m halfway through the rough draft of “Evaporated Ocean.” It’s rough as rough can be, but I’m starting to see where the story will really shape up in the second draft. I’m looking forward to finishing and outlining the rough draft tomorrow, so I can get onto the second draft Thursday. In all, around 2,000 words were written, or 7 handwritten pages.
  • Short Story Editing: I’m also halfway through the first round of edits of “The Lone Blue Strand” for Fictionvale. Man, looking back on something I wrote in March of 2014 is painful, and I know it was better than what I was writing even in December of 2013. My craft has improved, but it still has a long way to go! So, yeah. Editing older stories can cause much cringing, but it is always therapeutic in its own way.
  • Novel Outlining: I’m now halfway through my scene-by-scene outline for the first Wendigo novel. Roughly 55,000 words, or 215 pages, is planned out. In a rough sense, anyway. There’s still much work to be done over the rest of the month, including finishing this summary outline. I hope to mostly finish with it tomorrow, and the rest on Thursday. Then the real work begins: bringing all of these scenes together in ways that further the three POV characters’ arcs, and the overall plot. Scenes that do not do at least one of those things (And preferably two or more) will be altered or cast out, and new scenes will take their place.
  • Nonfiction Reading: I have finally gotten back to reading Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman. I want to get this finished in the next few days, then move on to my next nonfiction book: Word-Loss Diet by Rayne Hall
  • Fiction Reading: Volume 30 of the Writers of the Future is finished! The book has many excellent short stories in it. Better yet, I’m finally starting to see what makes some short stories better than others, other than the nebulous, “Wow, I really liked that.” The more I study other people’s works – as well as my own – the more I start to see the framework of the story. Its beginning, middle, and end. It’s quite a bit of fun looking back at stories and trying to figure out exactly where all of that is.

 

Blog Posts: 413
Planning and outlining: 3,432
Short Fiction: 2,000
Novel Fiction: 0
Salable words: 0

Total Fiction for Month: 10,550

Total Salable for Month: 1,000

Total Fiction for Challenge Year: 10,550

Total Salable for Challenge Year: 1,000

Writing in Public 2015: Day 12, Month 1

All right, a new week. Mondays are always slow from a words-written standpoint. It’s my plan-the-attack day, where I try and come up with the game plan for the rest of the week. Outlining, organizing, reading. Still, I had hoped to get more actual stuff written, but life came up and I had to step into that role instead.

Still, a few things were accomplished:

  • Short Story Writing: I’ve decided on this week’s story. It’s going to be a post-apocalyptic choosing-one’s-path kind of tale, a story about two lovers reconciling with one another in the midst of very dangerous work. It’s ambitious, but I hope something good will come of it. The rough draft outline is finished. Tomorrow the actual drafting begins.
  • Editing: Last night I received the first round of editing notes for “The Lone Blue Strand.” As always, Venessa Giunta at Fictionvale is thorough. The edits are due back on Saturday, so I have broken the story up into manageable pieces each day this week. I’ll have it finished by Friday, if not a little sooner.
  • Editing: I also had a bit of time to work on editing “Snowmelt.” The story is gelling together quite nicely in its fourth draft. A fifth draft might still be necessary, but we’ll see.
  • Read Volume 30 of the Writers of the Future. I had some time to sit outside the house whilst waiting on things, so I brought my copy and kept reading. I read several great stories, ranging from fantasy (“The Clouds in Her Eyes” by Liz Colter) to science fiction (“What Moves the Sun and Other Stars” by K.C. Norton) to those written by established authors (“Robots Don’t Cry” by Mike Resnick). I will finish this book tomorrow, thus catching me up to this week. Then I can get back on track with Mistborn.

Tomorrow we get back on schedule with rough drafts, more edits, and novel planning.

Blog Posts: 673
Planning and outlining: 619
Short Fiction: 0
Novel Fiction: 0
Salable words: 0

Total Fiction for Month: 8,550

Total Salable for Month: 1,000

Total Fiction for Challenge Year: 8,550

Total Salable for Challenge Year: 1,000

Goals for the Week – 01/12/15

Today marks a new week, and a new set of goals. We’ll break them down into three different categories: Writing, Editing, Reading

Writing

  • Brainstorm, outline, and write a new short story. Have a couple of ideas of what I can do. The only question is: do I want to work within the Wendigo and Soulweaver fantasy universes, or do I want to write a story set somewhere completely different?
  • Continue outlining the first Wendigo novel. I’ve fallen behind last week, so I’ll need to play a bit of catch-up in order to get it done by the January 31st deadline. Looks like a makeup weekend is in my future.

Editing

  • Edit “The Lone Blue Strand” for Fictionvale. I received the first round of edits for it, and the first round is usually the longest. It’s due at the end of the week, so this takes priority over any other editing jobs.
  • Edit my WOTF entry. It’s about time it gets finished, and so it shall this week!
  • Edit “Snowmelt” and submit it.

Reading

  • Finish Volume 30 of the Writers of the Future. Finished Volume 28 earlier today, finally. I have a bad habit of putting down the books I want to read in favor of doing more writing/outlining. I guess it’s good that I want to keep working, but it’s bad that
  • Finish Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman. Still haven’t gotten much past the first chapter for the aforementioned reasons. Will have to spend some time playing catchup, and that’s always bad to try.
  • Read Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. It’s actually a re-read, but I never finished the final book. It came out during a turbulent phase, but I’ve wanted to finish it. So, back to the beginning we go.
  • Read Word-Loss Diet by Rayne Hall. I enjoyed her book about fight scenes, and verbosity is a problem of mine. Learning to trim words is important.

And there we have it. The goals for this week.

Writing in Public 2015: Day 11, Month 1

The fourth draft of “Snowmelt” is finished. This will likely be the final draft of the story, but I’m thinking of letting it sit for a few days before I do any more with it. Sometimes it pays to come back with a fresh set of eyes and read it all over again. Either that, or I’ll get so sick of looking at it that I’ll send it out. “Whatever! Just go!” We’ll see!

Managed to read a few more stories in Volume 30 of the Writers of the Future. It’s amazing how varied the stories are between volumes. I’m not sure which one I like better between 28 and 30, but I’ve enjoyed the tales so far. Some are the kind of stories I wouldn’t normally seek out, but are worth the read.

Blog Posts: 160
Planning and outlining: 0
Short Fiction: 0
Novel Fiction: 0
Salable words: 0

Total Fiction for Month: 8,550

Total Salable for Month: 1,000

Total Fiction for Challenge Year: 8,550

Total Salable for Challenge Year: 1,000

Writing in Public 2015: Day 10, Month 1

My goals for today were to finish the third draft of “Snowmelt” and begin the fourth draft. The fourth draft didn’t happen, but the third draft has been finished. The second draft was around 4,000 words, and the third draft is about 5,300. I didn’t think new words would be written during this phase, or at least not this many. But, it has, so that’s been added to the list.

I also read a couple of stories in Volume 30 of the Writers of the Future. Keeping up with my novel reading is going to be difficult this year, unless I manage my time more effectively. Writing takes priority, but I can’t just leave enough time during the day for writing. Reading must also happen.

So, there we have it. Some writing, some reading:

Blog Posts: 160
Planning and outlining: 0
Short Fiction: 1,300
Novel Fiction: 0
Salable words: 0

Total Fiction for Month: 8,550

Total Salable for Month: 1,000

Total Fiction for Challenge Year: 8,550

Total Salable for Challenge Year: 1,000

Writing in Public 2015: Day 9, Month 1

Once again, the focus for the day rested with the short story “Snowmelt.” Nothing else was completed on the reading or novel outlining front. I think this weekend is going to be quite a bit busier than I planned as I play catch-up, but that’s all right.

I started on the third draft of “Snowmelt” today, this time with a computer file copy of it rather than a handwritten copy. The first 4 scenes are done. 4 more need to be finished, and will be tomorrow morning.

Nothing new added to the numbers, since I can’t say that this is the final draft for sure. All of the “salable” words out of this story will be posted up on Sunday when it is finished and submitted.

Blog Posts: 631
Planning and outlining: 0
Short Fiction: 0
Novel Fiction: 0
Salable words: 0

Total Fiction for Month: 7,250

Total Salable for Month: 1,000

Total Fiction for Challenge Year: 7,250

Total Salable for Challenge Year: 1,000