Welcome to the Dragon's Pen, the blog of an aspiring kiwi author ... chatting about reading, writing, querying and publishing

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Wipe the Brow and Relax - Step Two is Complete

I finished editing the last pages of my manuscript today - all 522 pages or 98,000 words.

YAY!!! Jig with me ... I know you want to!

It's an amazing feeling to see the whole thing printed out, a vertiable mountain of paper.

My Mum is staying for a couple of weeks so she was eager to be my first reader. She reads a LOT of books, even this is a bit of an understatement. She's been here a week and aside from helping with the housework and the kids she's managed to read at least seven books! not including my MS. So she knows a good book when she reads one and she wasn't going to tell me mine was great just because she's my Mum.

Well, when she got to the end of the last page she pushed it away from her and cried, "Where's the next book? I want to know what happens next." Believe me this is a good thing, it's the first in a planned trilogy. I want you to want to know what happens next.

I'm planning to read through it from start to finish and then it'll go out to my beta readers on Tuesday.

But until I get it back and attack their edits I plan to twiddle my thumbs a little, read lots of books and maybe, just maybe, I'll start writing book number two.

Oh, and in case you were wondering...

Step One: Write the book (and re-write and repeat as necessary)

Step Two: Edit the book (and repeat as necessary)

Step Three: Edit the book as advised by beta readers (and repeat as necessary)

Step Four: Submit the book to agent or publisher

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Laws of Magic

I've recently discovered Micheal Pryor's marvelous Laws of Magic Series. The books are set in an alternative (Victorian?) England aka Albion, where magic is a science like any other. The main character is Aubrey Fitzwilliam, son of the former Prime Minister and a peer of the realm. These fantastic novels are full of political intrigue, mystery and adventure.

There are (or will be) six books in the Laws of Magic Series.

In book One, Blaze of Glory, Aubrey must discover who created the magical golem that attempts to assassinate Prince Albert and why, all the while trying to hold himself back from the brink of death.

In book Two, Heart of Gold, Aubrey is searching for a cure for his condition but finds himself with a spot of diplomatic espionage on his hands.

In book Three, Word of Honour, the top secret submersible Aubrey's riding in is attacked and he must get to the bottom of who is behind it.

In book Four, Time of Trial, Aubrey and his friends must confront his nemesis and prevent Dr Tremaine from tipping the world into chaos.

While these books are about a teenage boy who is skilled at magic, the similarity to Harry Potter stops here. These books are very different to JK Rowling's work. They feel more grown up. This possibly due to the political intrigue, but I think it also has to do with Pryor's voice; his work has a very different tone to Rowling's.

Pryor has a crisp, tight prose that draws you into the story and his skill at weaving an intriguing tale keeps you turning the pages. "How the author manages to weave all these strands together into a truly exciting page-turner is magic itself! Unreservedly recommended." -Abbey's Bookshop.

These books are bound to be loved by guys (and girls) everywhere.
I highly recommend The Laws of Magic Series.

A review by the January Magazine sums up my sentiments on this series very well: "The action is almost non-stop ... much as I loved the Harry Potter books, I'd rather go out and party with Aubrey than Harry."

**Micheal Pryor is a born and breed Australian and has written a number of fantasy novels such as the Chronicles of Krangor, the Doorways Trilogy and the Quentarius Chronicles, among others.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A bit of This and a bit of That.

While cruising around the blogs I link to I discovered this gem by agent Rachelle Gardner on Revision letters. It's a really interesting insight into the sort of things an editor will be looking for when they're reviewing your manuscript. I also think in could be a really helpful to consider these issues ourselves when editing our own work prior to submission.

On quite a different note, the lovely author Nicola Morgan - famous for her YA novels and her brilliantly helpful blogs (Google "The Crabbit Old Bat" or click this link to find her site) - has just set up a Facebook page and is running a competition. To enter "like" her Facebook page and go in the draw to win a signed copy of one of her books. The more of us who join the more books are entered into the pool. To read more about her social experiment go here.

I'm making good progress editing my manuscript. I've passed the halfway mark now and we're steaming on towards the finish. Only a few thousand words to go! I'm really pleased with how the story is shaping up. It feels solid, cohesive and strong, and I'm thrilled to bits.

*** If you are keen to explore a few sites that specialize in encouraging and advising writers and aspiring authors head on over to Writeitsideways to find a list of 23 such blogs by writers and literary agents.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Something a little unexpected happened at our Dunedin Writer's Workshop this week.

My story "Reluctant Sacrifice" won First Place in the Doreen Paul Children's Writing Competition.

The competition was judged by Carol Krueger, author of 99 children's books and a local Dunedinite. She had so many nice things to say about the story and was incredibly enthusiastic and encouraging, but did caution me about my spelling (the bane of my writing life).

The whole experience was surreal, however the shiny trophy on my mantle is reassuring proof that I haven't dreamed up the whole experience.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Blood Thirsty Writing and Youtube

Confession time: I've always been fascinated by medieval weapons. When I take my kids to the museum I always seem to gravitate toward the display of ancient weapons. Knives, daggers, swords, scimitars and katana, even a poleaxe or spear will do. If it's long, shiny and sharp I want to see it!

Archery also falls in to my basket of things that fascinate. A bow is a beautiful thing. I'd love to draw a feathered arrow to my mouth and see it arc through the air to impale itself in the bullseye of a target. As it is, I think a Wii sport archery competition is the closest I'm going to get to the real thing for some time yet.

Due to the nature of the book I'm writing (YA fantasy) I've had to write a few fight and small scale battle scenes. I'm loving it! Who knew I was so blood thirsty?

The scenes I'm writing not only have to read well, they also have to be credible and believable.

I don't want to write a fight scene that will cause a reader who knows a thing or two to say, "There is no way that move would have worked!"

In an ideal world I would have joined a medieval re-enactment group and got someone to show me how to use a sword, but in the little city where I live there isn't one.

So instead I turned to Youtube.

When I needed to know all about archery I watched videos on how to make your own arrows, lessons on how to string your bow, hold a bow and arrow, and how to shoot.

When I needed to know about throwing knives I watched videos about different knives, the different throws you can make and how to pull them off.

Fighting with a sword and shield? Youtube came to the rescue again with videos explaining how to hold a sword and shield, how to make your stance and how to move when you're fighting, as well as different attack and defensive moves.

Not that any of this would mean I could defend myself if someone came at me with the real thing. Nor would it help much if someone put a bow in my hand and said "Shoot that target over there or I'll drop your laptop from a great height." I think we all know I'd shortly be weeping over my lost manuscript and filling out insurance forms.

However, it has given me the knowledge and understanding to write (I hope) a good fight scene that's not only believable but wickedly exciting!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Conquering the Beast

You'll know, if you read this semi regularly, I've been editing my MS for the past few months. What you might not know is that more recently I've been struggling with a portion of my MS in a big banging-my-head-against-the-wall sort of a way. Apparently this is quite normal. Writers do experience moments like this from time to time. We encounter them when we are writing and again and again and again during editing.

I think it's easier when we are in the writing phase to sweep these wee monsters under the carpet and pretend they aren't there. But come editing time it's much harder to pretend that all the problems and inconsistencies, plot issues, dull, boring, cardboard characters and lazy writing are not there!

They are THERE and they have to be dealt will. They can't be left as they are. These monsters must be vanquished or they will destroy any potential your story has of EVER leaving the slush pile.

For the last - lets be honest - six weeks I have been struggling with a particular large beast.

I admit I dragged my feet. I don't know that I was scared to face this monster, but I certainly wasn't looking forward to it. I procrastinated. I read books. I twiddled my thumbs. I didn't want to have to deal with the problems I saw. And there were many of them!

The whole passage was about 10-15 pages, about a quarter of the way through the book. Pieces I'd written way back in the beginning, some of the very first scenes I came up with before I really knew what shape the book would take on and who my characters were.

With the book now finished, bits of it no longer fitted. Scenes needed to be tweaked, characters filled out. New scenes had to be added in to provide info and to sew everything together seamlessly. There needed to be more character interaction, more conflict and more fighting. What a nightmare!

But today is a day to celebrate. I've conquered the beast.

This afternoon it breathed it's last breath and twitched it's last twitch.

It feels great to have it done and I'm pretty pleased with what has come out of it. The characters feel fuller and more vivid, and there are some nice action scenes in there too. Which is awesome!

Editing wise, it's pretty much all down hill from here. There's still lots to do, but there are no more mountains to climb and no more great, hairy, slobbering beasts to slay.

A days work well done, if I do say so myself.
I hope you're having as much success in your own writing corner.

Note: Sorry about all the typos. I think I've fixed them all now.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Chaneling your Character

I few days a go I talked about the different ways the Muse can be inspired. Today I thought I'd talk a little about channeling our characters.

This means getting into the your character's head and making her real on the page.

Whatever situation your character finds herself in you have to know and understand how she feels. Emotion is a huge part of our humanity. Our characters need to be convincingly human (unless of course you're writing SF and your MC is non-humanoid).

In the books we read it's the things a character experiences and their reactions, both emotional and physical, that will determine our own emotional connection to the characters of a story.

Of course, I want readers to care about my main character. It's my job to channel her so that she'll become real to the reader enabling that crucial bond to form between the reader and my MC.

In order to do this I need to know what she feels and why, right down to all minute the complexities of emotion.

Perhaps she has lost someone close to her quite suddenly, how might she be feeling? A whole range of emotions present themselves for consideration. Desolation, despair, panic, depression, anger, helplessness ... and possibly all of these at once.

Once I understand my character's emotion state I should be able to write a credible response or reaction to what is happening and one that the reader will empathise with.

I thought I'd share with you the image that is inspiring me at present. This is it. Isn't she lovely?

In this picture it's the wistful look in her eyes that speaks to me, as if she's thinking back to a better time. The time before chaos.

Sometimes I see pain and heartache in her expression. Other times it seems to me there's a coldness, a detachment and a grim determination in her face.

Each of these impressions can help me to enter into my character's emotional state. I see it in her face, I empathize and I experience those emotions though her, and with her, as she shares her story and I record it. Of course, I don't always write like this, but starting this way can be very helpful.

I often have a picture, like this one, as my screen saver. So the instant my computer comes on line my inspiration is staring back at me. This helps keep the story in my head (in technicolour!) and acts as a siren song, calling be back to work.

Much of the time the characters and the scenes I set out to write are so clear any extra visual aids are unnecessary. But writing isn't always easy. Sometimes it's just gut wrenching, hair pulling, frustrating, thankless work. When it's hard it's handy to have little tricks up my sleeve to get me going again; this is one of them.

How do you get yourself kick started when your writing grounds to a holt?
What method do you use to get into your character's head or really ground yourself in a scene?