On To The Next!

I completely forgot to mention it or update anything concerning Crafting the Badger’s Head until today.

It is done. It has 112,600 words. It still needs to be run through spell checker to catch all of the spellings that I’ve trained myself to ignore when writing a rough draft, but it’s done.

After I finished it, I kinda took some time off mentally from the Sentinels world. I did no writing at all for a while. Then, I wrote a short story for a Mini Contest on the Redwall Survivor Forums and now… on to the next, I suppose.

The Next in this case being… *gulp* Sentinels of Mysera.

Again.

I pulled out the notes I got from a content editor 2 years ago (prior to my insane learning experience at Redwall Survivor), as well as notes from my Survivor shipmate, Tooley.

I’m not sure I can make these fixes short and easy on me.

I’m thinking I need to take SoM through Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel course. Run it through the the grinder which is HTRYN and finish it, once and for all.

I don’t want to, but I need to, because the book is not publishable as it is and I won’t see any further progress on the Sentinels Series until Book #1 is done.

Keep Trying Or Scrap It

I heard back from one of my content editors. I haven’t gone through all her comments on Sentinels of Mysera yet, but her initial overview was that she was neutral about the story. She neither loved nor hated it, but she had a tough time caring about the story.

Dang it…

Well, at least it was easier to swallow than the critique I mentioned in The Best Writing Critique I Ever Got, but it still wasn’t what I wanted to hear. Not by a long shot.

Now, it’s possible that my type of book just isn’t her thing and that’s okay. You can’t be what everyone wants to read. It’s still a bit of a blow to the old ego.

I’ve got another editor still going through the Tales of Mysera stories and Sentinels of Mysera, so I’m not planning on going through the first editor’s notes until I’ve got both sets in front of me.

Then I have a choice to make.

Does SoM get another major revision? Or is the story a lost cause?

The biggest problem I have with scrapping SoM is that it’s the first of a series and I’ve already written 6 rough drafts for almost the rest of the series, not to mention 3 books that are spin-offs from the main series. What happens to the sequels if the first book gets tossed? Twelve years of my life have been poured into writing this series. I love the world and I love the characters.

I guess I have a third option that is somewhere in between the umpteenth revision and the burn pile. I could write a new first book. I’ve had that suggested to me before. I don’t feel that the sequels will mean the same without the foundation of the first book behind them. The relationships that are established between the characters in the first book are important to their interactions later. I’ve pondered the need for a different first book, but I’ve yet to come up with anything that would be better than what I’ve got already.

My first attempts at revision have been difficult. Sentinels of Mysera has been my guinea pig in learning how to revise and each time I’ve tried, I’ve become more convinced that I should have taken Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel course the first time and saved myself a lot of headache.

Blah.

Well, Sentinels of Mysera is going to continue cooling on the back burner while I wait on the other editor. To keep myself focusing forward, I’m starting on revisions for SoM‘s sequel, Battle of the Bargaws. My goal for the rest of the week is to do the read-through and make the new plot cards for this revision.

Any authors out there got any good advice for the struggles with a first book? Have you ever had to scrap a project?

Updates on SoM and Tales of Mysera

I sent off the 8 Tales of Mysera stories and the Sentinels of Mysera manuscript to a fellow author to do some content editing. I have a 2nd author who is looking over SoM’s first 3 chapters and if she thinks we’re a good fit, we’re going to trade off content editing. Once I get the notes back from my editors and make any necessary revisions, I’ll get to try my hand at formatting and packaging for publication.

Oh, and I get to make covers, which I’m starting on now. We’ll see how it goes, because I’m not all that artistic. 🙂 When I have some covers done, I’ll put them up here for a vote. Stay tuned!

The Best Writing Critique I Ever Got

It was either late 2010 or early 2011. I had been dutifully sending out queries for Sentinels of Mysera. My memory claims I’d sent out about 19 or so queries.

I got about 19 or so rejections.

I logged on to the chat room at Forward Motion for Writers and announced that I had received 19 rejections. In my efforts to force the positive, I said I was 19 NOs closer to a YES. One of the authors in the chat asked if I’d gotten any requests for partials or anything other than an outright no.

I had not.

So she asked to see the material I’d been sending. What she wrote back was both the best and worst writing critique I’ve ever gotten.

“I’m sorry to say this, but that sucks.”

Now, it was the best thing for me to hear, because I’d never gotten a negative response to my writing. Everyone always told me it was wonderful and they wanted more. But I knew, deep down inside, that something was wrong with my book.

It was the worst, because it told me that what I’d feared was true. For a while, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to fix anything to make my book better. I feared, more than anything, that this world that I loved so much would die.

I spent the better part of the day in tears, then got back on the chat.

She was still there and apologized for her harsh comment and wanted to clarify a little better what she saw.

“You have great characters. You have a good plot. Your world is flat. You have colorful characters running around on a white background.”

So, Sentinels of Mysera went back to the drawing board. I knew, that day, what had caused my flat world. I think I always knew, but I needed someone to smack me over the head with my 100,000 word manuscript before I admitted it to myself.

The world of the Sentinels was originally not in Mysera. It was a fan-created internet club based on the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. My friend and I had created it in 1998 and my heart and soul was invested in the club for many years. In 2003, I sat down to move the Sentinels from their birthplace in Brian Jacques’ world. The characters moved and changed. The important places changed and morphed. I made sure to take out all the things that were part of Redwall. I made the world my own.

But I never replaced enough. I took out all of Mr. Jacques’ color. I never put in enough of my own.

I’ve spent the last 4 years struggling with that. I tore Sentinels of Mysera apart. I rebuilt the world. I added a religion to the book, which has been the hardest change. As a Christian, I believe there is one God, and everything else out there is false. I had to figure out where I was comfortable drawing the line between what I am convicted is true, and what would simply be fantasy. I couldn’t figure out a way to put my personal convictions in the book without either corrupting my convictions, or completely changing the book beyond recognition.

It took time, but I finally worked out that my world would have a TRUTH. My world would have a god, who exists in that world. However, much like the God of the Bible that I believe in, people have corrupted the truth. The basis for the religion of Mysera is just that. It is what people believe to be true, and the world operates under the god’s rules, but things have been corrupted and lost. I’ve worked out what the truth is, and where it has been changed. This opened doors for a magic system which fixed several substantial plot holes.

Is Sentinels of Mysera colorful enough now? I’d like to think so. The world has changed. The things I love are still there, but maybe they’ve been shifted around. The differences between the original draft that was started in 2003 and the one I hold now are huge, yet the heart is still there. Hearing that my book sucked was hard, but in the end, I know it made a better book and made me a better writer.

Have you ever gotten a really hard-to-swallow critique? What did you do about it?

It is done… again.

Sentinels of Mysera is done and in the computer. It just needs one more read through to make sure I didn’t screw up anything weird during the retype.

I REALLY hope I got it this time!

I’ve done major rewrites of this book numerous times. My “Sentinels of Mysera” folder is littered with files titled, “2nd Draft,” “Final Draft,” “2009 Draft,” “2010 Final Draft,” etc.

It has definitely gotten better each time. I’ve learned a lot about the revision process, though there certainly is still more for me to learn.

Now, it’s on to the query letters and synopsis for SoM. Time to give this manuscript wings and send it out the door! We’ll see how it does in the big, bad world of professional publishing. If it gets accepted, then great! If not, I’ve plans to self-publish it in the next few months.