Getting Critiqued

Last week I had a new experience that, as many new experiences are, was both thrilling and terrifying.  No, I did not get to ride a new roller coaster at Cedar Point.  (In fact, due to my interesting condition, I was reduced to the Ferris wheel and Sky Ride this summer.)

No, I’m talking about having someone who is not related to me read my writing.

Several months ago, a fellow blogger was running a Kickstarter to fund her trip to a writer’s conference in Iceland.  One of the perks she offered was a critique of the first chapter of the donor’s WIP.  This sounded like a perfect opportunity for me to get some feedback on the draft of a fantasy novel I started for NaNoWriMo last year.

I was so elated when I won NaNo last year, I figured I would be able to channel that energy into a second draft this year.  However, when I started re-reading what I’d written, I really started hating it.  It did not seem at all like the story I’d had in my head.  The prose made me cringe, and the tone was all wrong.  I didn’t want to look at it, much less edit it.

So I figured I should really take this opportunity to get a fresh opinion in the hopes it would give me some direction for where to go next.  I didn’t really end up having any anxiety over it at all.  I already knew there were things wrong with my text, so I was actually eager for someone to tell me what exactly was wrong so I could fix it!

And that’s exactly what happened.  Sara wrote me a nice list of comments with her first impressions, things she was confused about, etc.  The most important comment she gave me was that my very first scene lacked tension.  There was nothing to hook the reader in, and nothing to foreshadow the larger conflicts of the later story.

She also mentioned a lack of visual cues for worldbuilding.  Although I implied a setting based on ancient Rome, I gave no physical descriptions of characters, buildings, etc.

As far as the writing, one of my goals is to re-read some of my favorite historical fantasies by Guy Gavriel Kay, who is kind of my “model” author for this story as it was heavily inspired by his works.

So this first chapter critique turned out to be a good experience for me.  I definitely feel more inspired and up to the task of revising my story now.  Letting others read your writing is always difficult, but hopefully it will get easier with time and practice.

 

Advertisements

Victory!

Winner 2016 - Web Banner

OMG you guys I’m so tired, and I’m going to spend the next month putting my life and my blog back together, but…I DID IT.  I won NaNoWriMo for the first time by writing over 50,000 words on my novel during November.

My novel, which is currently going by The Gladiator and the Goddess, is definitely not done.  In fact, the third act is virtually nonexistent, but it is a complete, readable text, which was really my goal.  So I’ll put it aside for a month and come back to it next year.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that winning NaNo was the hardest thing I have done in recent memory.  I am totally drained.  It got a little easier as I went along.  In previous NaNos, I’ve struggled to write more than a few hundred words per day; this time I found I was able to do about 1000 easily.  Of course, I was still behind the whole way, so this last week I really had to put a lot of time in.  Nothing like an upcoming deadline for motivation.

nano2016
Can you tell I’m a procrastinator?

When I tried to validate, I was still a few words short due to differences in word count methods, so I quickly added an extra paragraph that looked like this:

More words words words words la la a an the small words are better I think omg I’m done and Spotify stopped I need more kpop la s an the pull the dk ahf etih aien I need a hundred more words, how could the owrd count be off by that much yikes oh well I’m still going to win so whatever and opefully in January this will make me laugh a lot. So tied need sleep. Almost at one hundred more words more words the best words tremendous words so great I know all the best words much owrds so wow very write ok I’m over one hundred now thanks bye

Yup, that’s the thought process of a NaNo winner at the end of the month.

I hope you all had successful writing, too!  I look forward to reading them someday…after some editing. 🙂

ETA: I also accomplished my goal for the month by attending two local “write-ins” with other people in my area attempting NaNo.  We’re the Akron region and we have a Facebook group if you are local and want to join.

Also, my soundtrack for the month varied from Pines of Rome to the sounds of my husband playing Overwatch.  I did create a Spotify playlist for NaNo K-pop music that was my most frequent listen; check it out here:

https://open.spotify.com/user/scifijunkie21/playlist/0oj9pVqL6WEAeIqpD7JJQ9

 

Ash and Team Excerpt #4

This month I’m sharing excerpts from my WIP from previous NaNoWriMos, working title Ash and Team.  It is inspired by the Mi’kmaq-French Cinderella story called Oochigeaskw.

Dramatis Personae:
  • Ash (our Cinderella character)
  • Azula (her older sister)
  • Team (our “prince,” an invisible spirit)
  • Meg (his older sister, our narrator)

Out of sight of the village, she broke into a skip, reveling in her new found freedom.  Once inside the forest, she greeted the trees as she walked among them.  “Hello, fir,” she said, touching their trunks she passed.  “Hello, hickory.  Hello, birch.”  She grinned as she felt them respond.

She heard footsteps and the occasional splash of water through the trees ahead of her; someone was standing on the bank of the creek at our meeting spot.  Ash picked up her pace so as to not make me wait any longer.

But when she entered the clearing it was not me she saw.  Team was standing with his back to her, tossing stones into the creek.

She just couldn’t seem to stop smiling today.

Continue reading

Ash and Team Excerpt #3

This month I’m sharing excerpts from my WIP from previous NaNoWriMos, working title Ash and Team.  It is inspired by the Mi’kmaq-French Cinderella story called Oochigeaskw.

Dramatis Personae:
  • Ash (our Cinderella character)
  • Azula (her older sister)
  • Team (our “prince,” an invisible spirit)
  • Meg (his older sister, our narrator)

There was indeed an alcove in the side of a tall rock formation, not big enough to be called a cave, but large enough for two people to stand comfortably and not get their feet wet.  The overhanging rock above their head jutted out several feet, casting a shadow on an already grey day.

Ash caught her breath for a minute as they listened to the rain come down.  Team’s skin was still wet from the river and the rain, and the beads of water caught what little light there was and reflected it straight to her eyes.

“You know, you can barely even see your scar in the dark like this,” Team said suddenly.  “I noticed at the wedding, too—”  His eyes widened and he broke off as he realized what he was saying.  “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t say things like that, I forget…”

She shook her head, although her hand had already risen to the right side of her neck.  “It’s okay, I know you didn’t mean anything.  This is from an accident when I was young.  I don’t talk about it much.”  She was looking out into the rain.

“I’m sorry,” he repeated gently.

“It’s okay,” she said, and she meant it.  She still had butterflies in her stomach, but with Team, a lot of things that should have felt embarrassing, somehow…didn’t.

There was something she had meant to ask him, and now she forged ahead.  “So, why haven’t we ever met before?  I mean, I’ve lived in this village my whole life, but I don’t remember you from before…”

“Before I ran into you?”

She smiled sheepishly.  “If that’s how you want to put it.”

“Well, there’s an easy answer to that.  You may have grown up here, but I didn’t.”

“So you did come from another village?”

H nodded.  “Yes.  A few years ago.”

“Why did you move?”

His face was drawn as he looked out into the rain.  “There was a…a sickness.  A lot of people died.  My parents, too.  So my sister and I, we came here.  Like a fresh start.”

Ash felt rather bad she had asked.  “I’m sorry about your parents.  I lost my mother, too.  When I was very little.  She was sick, too.”

“I’m sorry.  Do you remember her at all?”

“A little.  Father says that my sister is a lot like her.”

Team shook his head ruefully and chuckled.  “My sister is nothing like my mother.”  His tone grew more thoughtful.  “I remember she sang a lot, and she told me stories.  She was always smiling.  Just being around her felt…warm.”  He hugged his arms to his chest.

“She sounds wonderful.”

“She was.  It’s good to remember her.  I don’t want to forget.”

They listened to the rain for a minute until Team spoke again.

“My sister, though—she’s more like my father.  More practical.  It’s really thanks to her that we survived after my parents passed.”

“What’s her name?”

That flustered him for some reason.  “My sister?  Oh, I don’t think you’d know her.”

“Are you sure?  What does she look like?”

Now he just seemed baffled.  “Um, well, she has long dark hair.  In braids.”  He pantomimed, as if that would help.

Ash couldn’t help smiling a little.  “Does she really.”

“What?” He threw up his hands in mock surrender.  “I don’t know the kinds of things you girls say.”

“Well, how would you describe me?” she said.

He started at her for a second, then narrowed his eyes.  “Is this a test?”

He looked even more confused, if that was possible, when she started laughing.

NaNo Break: Meeting Marissa Meyer

Hi guys!  I’m taking a quick break from writing (I just hit 16,000 words, which is way short of where I should be, but also more than I’ve ever written for NaNoWriMo before).

Last Sunday I was able to see author Marissa Meyer speak on her tour to promote her new book Heartless, the story of the Queen of Hearts before Alice.  I had already planned posts for this week and next about her wonderful Lunar Chronicles series (Cinder, etc), which are a futuristic sci-fi wp_20161113_16_29_47_protake on classic fairy tales (with a little Sailor Moon thrown in).  So this seemed very timely!

She was speaking at the lovely Parma-Snow branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library, and the ticket fee included a copy of Heartless, which she then signed for everyone.

I’d never been to a talk like this before, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  I went alone, which was a terrible idea, first because the audience was primarily high school girls (a few adults, too: parents and librarians).  This seems obvious in retrospect, but I really felt old the whole time.  Like, really old.  Also, there were a lot of people there, so I stood in line about 1.5 hours for the signing, and by the end I was quite bored and tired.

Other than that, it was fun and interesting.  She briefly introduced the book and its premise, and because the whole event had a Wonderland theme, she invited several volunteers to the stage for a “tea party” where they showed off their “talents” of singing, reciting poetry, etc.  It was really cute and funny, and Meyer was very engaging.

She then took a bunch of questions, which were primarily about the Lunar Chronicles.  She also mentioned some upcoming projects:

Another reason this post is timely is that Meyer has been a NaNoWriMo participant several times, and many of her books got drafted during NaNo.  When she was signing my book, I mentioned that I was doing NaNo, too.  She asked if I was on track, and I had to say no!  >_< But she gave me some words of encouragement to keep going. ^_^

wp_20161113_16_29_04_pro
My name is under the bookmark.  The inscription says “We’re all mad here.” 😀