2020 Clarion West Write-a-thon

I’m participating in the Clarion West Write-a-thon again this year.

The Write-a-thon is a fundraiser for the Clarion West Writers Workshop. If you wish to donate to Clarion West, I invite you to go to my Clarion West Write-a-thon writer’s page and click on the Sponsor Lester D. Crawford button.

This year I’m working toward the completion of Fear Fallacy Friend, a story of a human and a dragon overcoming their differences to create a partnership that changes their world.

Clarion West Write-a-thon Badge
Clarion West Write-a-thon

Continuing to Work on Overlapping Events

Moving through the overlapping portions of these two stories has been instructive. I experimented with different methods to keep the two stories in sync and found that simply opening the two documents side by side and stepping through paragraph by paragraph works best.

I’m also enjoying comparing overlaps between Tui T. Sutherland’s Dragonslayer and the two stories The Dragonet Prophecy (Wings of Fire, #1) and The Brightest Night (Wings of Fire, #5). One difference between Sutherland’s stories and mine is in her stories, the dragons and humans (called scavengers by the dragons) do not speak a common language. In my stories, the language in the two stories is the same. That means I must keep the dialogue matching exactly even if I change the action beats to accommodate the different point-of-view characters.

This is a good exercise, and the stories are excellent. I am continuing to learn as I work on the project.

Deep into Overlapping Events

In the process of writing the current story, the part of the story that overlaps a previous story has arrived. I’m having fun with it as I learn many things.

One lesson I learned is that approaching a scene from a different character’s point-of-view often reveals potentials for improvements in the original version of the scene. I’m using these revelations to improve the original version.

A second lesson is that sometimes information has already been presented in the current story and then the same information is presented in the original story in the overlapping portion. When that happens, repeating the information is unnecessary and undesirable. Finding a way to skip repeating the information without breaking the flow of the overlapping scene can be a challenge.

The third lesson is that dialogue needs to continue to match between the two stories or the feeling of the scenes being the same scenes from different points-of-view is lost. I find such differences to be irritating. I expect many of my readers would too.

Much work remains to finish the story. I’m sure I’ll learn more lessons along the way.

Overlapping Events between Stories

I finished Dragonslayer by Tui T. Sutherland. I enjoyed the book. The story has three human point-of-view (POV) characters and a few scenes that are the human POV of scenes that were from various dragons’ POVs in the first five books of the Wings of Fire series. That overlapping of events was fun.

The first time I remember encountering overlapping events in books was reading The Masterharper of Pern by Anne McCaffrey. That book had Masterharper Robinton’s POV of scenes that in Dragonflight were from Lessa’s POV. I enjoyed seeing those scenes from different perspectives as well as seeing events in those scenes that were off screen in the other book.

I wanted to experiment with doing overlapping events between stories. At about the two-thirds point in my current project, the story overlaps a story I previously wrote. I’m not to that point in writing the story yet, but I look forward to delving into those scenes from a different perspective and providing details that were off screen in the first story.

I have a little more to say about Dragonslayer. A few spoilers follow.

I fell in love with the dragon Sky. He’s the human Wren’s friend and one of the main non-POV characters in the story. He loved watching snails and when he met his first baby turtle, he nearly fainted with joy.

“SO CUTE,” Sky warbled, near tears. He lay down beside the turtle and rested his head on his front claws. “I looooooooooooooooooooooooove it. Wren! Look at its little head. Look at its little feet! It is the sweetest, best little animal in the whole history of the universe.”

I also liked the dragon called Sweetface. Her actual name turned out to be Cereus (which is a type of cactus).

When Sky’s friend Wren spoke to Cereus in the dragon language, Cereus, believing humans can’t actually speak, said to Sky, “She makes dragon noises! You’ve trained her so well! That’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen!”

When Wren told Cereus that she wasn’t making dragon noises, she was speaking Dragon and to stop being a dimwit, Cereus said to Sky, “Awwwwwwwmygoodness, I love her! I want to snuggle her and put little hats on her!”

Later, Sky told Wren, “You’re extremely lovable. Of course, you would be more lovable in a little hat…”

I enjoyed the interaction between Wren and Sky. That is the kind of connections I love exploring in my stories.

I recommend the entire Wings of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland.

Dragonslayer book and library cup.
Dragonslayer Book and Library Cup

The Magic of Characters Popping into Existence

While exploring the details of a scene where the protagonist is confronted by an antagonist and his posse, after the confrontation, as the defeated antagonist limps away, magic happened: a new character appeared. Her name is Nyxie.

The protagonist says to her, “Nyxie, why do you hangout with those people? You’re not like them.”

When the antagonist calls for Nyxie to come along, she hesitates before going. Later, in the kidnapping scene, when the antagonist kidnaps the protagonist and his family, Nyxie is with the antagonist. She finally has had enough of the antagonist’s antics and runs for help. She brings back help, but it’s too late, the kidnappers and victims are gone. However, Nyxie leads the rescuers to where the kidnappers took their captives. Then, she disappears from the story with an explanation that no one knows what happened to her.

Not revealed in the story is that Nyxie ran away. She thinks the villagers will be angry about her involvement with the antagonist and the kidnapping, and the antagonist will be angry that she had betrayed him. She decides the best thing to do is to go into hiding.

She travels into the Western Mountains, but is unprepared and inexperienced. She is soon ill, malnourished, and in general not doing well.

A dragon finds Nyxie and tries to help her by giving her grass to eat. Nyxie says, “People don’t eat grass,” which surprises the dragon. (This is a running gag in the stories on this world because for some reason the dragons think people eat grass. They’re always surprised to learn it’s not true.) The dragon persists, though, by learning how to care for Nyxie and helping her regain her strength.

Nyxie has only seen two dragons, but she thinks those two are representative of dragons. The dragon helping her is not like them. Nyxie thinks all dragons have a bronzy base color with red, green, and blue highlights distinctive to each individual with additional yellow highlights on females. This dragon has the red, green, blue, and yellow highlights, but the base color is a blue lighter than the highlights’ blue. Nyxie can’t say the dragon’s unpronounceable name, so she calls the dragon Sky.

Also, the dragon is small, like an adolescent dragon — about six meters long from tip of nose to tip of tail where as an adult dragon is about ten meters long. When Nyxie mentions this, the dragon insists she is an adult, she’s just small. Nyxie realizes the dragon is a dwarf dragon.

Nyxie suffers from self-esteem issues. She has a low opinion of herself, sees herself as flawed and inferior, believes herself to be unworthy of love, relies on others to guide her, and is drawn to people who mistreat her because it reinforces her negative self-image. She exists in a constant emotionally impoverished state.

Sky also has issues. While the dragons have never mistreated her — they accept her as she is — she knows she’s different and simply can’t accept herself. She too has run away to live alone; although, she’s an adult dragon and is perfectly capable of caring for herself.

When Nyxie and Sky meet and become partners, their love for each other helps each accept them self.

“We are worthy of love and we are loved.”

All of this magic happened in a brief moment as I explored the details of the protagonist/antagonist confrontation scene. The exhilaration was intense and is what makes writing addictive. Writing the notes about the ideas took a lot longer than the flash of insight that brought them. Now, if only I can find time to write the story. I have so many others queued up.

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

The Format You Use to Write is Your Business and No One Else’s

When I write, I use methods that help me be accurate and efficient, methods that help me find and fix errors, methods that help me avoid typos and blunders. I created a document format to help me accomplish this. What started me down this path were opportunities to see how a few successful writers worked. I felt encourage to experiment and develop a method that works best for me.

My writing format is as follows.
• 12-point Courier
• Double-spaced
• One-inch margins
• 25 lines per page
• Two spaces after sentences
• Two hyphens (‐‐) for em dash
• Underscore for italics

It shouldn’t have surprised me that this generated outrage from some people.

I was told “Courier is obsolete and no one uses it anymore and therefore I am wrong to use it.” There’s nothing wrong with Courier, and a monospace font makes the text visually easier for me to edit.

“Double-spacing is archaic and a waste.” I find double-spacing’s white space helps me concentrate on what I’m editing and it provides space for making notes on the page when I edit a printed version of the manuscript.

“One-inch margins are a waste of space.” I find one-inch margins provide the same benefits as double-spacing.

“Twenty-five lines per page is stupid.” Well, that’s what 12-point Courier, double-spaced, and one-inch margins gives me.

“Two spaces after sentences is archaic and outright wrong in this modern age.” I use two spaces when I’m writing because it helps me see the sentences better, which helps me edit better. I would use five spaces after sentences if it helped me write and edit better.

“Two hyphens (‐‐) for an em dash is so wrong. The word processor can change those to an em dash for you as you type.” That’s true; except, I sometimes miss that I typed a hyphen where I intended an em dash. By using two hyphens, I can see when I’m editing that I made a mistake and can fix it.

“Underscore for italics is an abomination. Just make them italics to start with.” It’s easy to mess-up italics when writing. By clearly marking them, I reduce my error rate as I write and edit.

I decided the problem is these complainers conflate submission guidelines with how one’s computer screen should look as one writes. They say one should write in the format one’s target audience wants the finished product to be in. Why? Moreover, I don’t necessarily know what the submission guidelines will be for the different markets where I might submit a manuscript. How am I to know which guideline is the proper guideline to follow when I’m in the writing phase of a spec project. I’ve been told there’s a standard. No, there’s no standard. Different venues can have different guidelines.

It’s strange, though, that it seems these same people who are so zealous about what is the proper way for a writer to write on a computer don’t have the same complaints when the writer writes by hand. If you write by hand, you can write anyway you want. Although, it wouldn’t surprise me if someone said there are rules about what kind of pen and paper a writer must use.

I believe writing and submitting are two different steps in the process. One does not dictate the other’s format. My method is to write in a format that maximizes my productivity and the quality of my work. That version is my “golden document.” It is the original. When the manuscript is finished and it’s time to submit it, send it to an editor, or deliver it to a client, I format a separate copy that meets the specifications the recipient provides.

Of course, it helps that I’m a master of my tools. A tweak to the document’s style settings and a few easy find-and-replace commands makes the needed changes. This might be a problem for some people because they haven’t mastered their tools and can’t make these simple changes. The solution to that is to master one’s tools.

My recommendation is to write using a method that works best for you to maximize the quality of your work instead of adhering to a style someone else dictates about how your working document should look. You don’t have to write in the format others want the finished product to be in. Make a copy of the finished version and adjust the formatting to meet the guidelines where you’re sending the manuscript. Always keep your golden document in your writing and editing format in case you need to go back and edit.

Each writer must find the method that works best for them. Everyone is different. One solution for all does not exist. What is your method?

Example of how my working document looks.
Example of how my working document looks.
It’s not readable because I’m still working to sell the story.
If you could read it, the First Publication Rights would be used up.

My Favorite 2019 Reads

I read a variety of books this year. These six are among my favorite genre reads in 2019 (not necessarily published in 2019).

  • The Hive Queen (Wings of Fire #12) by Tui T. Sutherland
  • The Poison Jungle (Wings of Fire #13) by Tui T. Sutherland
  • Spark by Sarah Beth Durst
  • The Girl with the Dragon Heart by Stephanie Burgis
  • The Princess Who Flew with Dragons by Stephanie Burgis
  • Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch #2) by Ann Leckie
Book covers for six of my favorite books I read in 2019.
Book covers for six of my favorite books I read in 2019.

Give a Dragon a Cookie

Give a Dragon a Cookie
by Lester D. Crawford

Jane noticed sitting on the windowsill an arm’s length dragon that shimmered red and green and silver and gold.

“You’re beautiful. Here.” She gave the dragon a cookie.

The dragon chirped, took the cookie, and flew away.

When Sally entered, Jane said, “I saw a colorful dragon.”

“Those are Christmas dragons.”

“New to me. I gave it a cookie.”

“No! It’ll bring others. Quick, run.”

Sally and Jane ran out of the house.

An ever-growing flock of iridescent dragons descended on the house covering it until it collapsed under the mass.

Jane said, “Lesson learned: Don’t feed the Christmas dragons.”

This is my 100-word Christmas story for 2019.

Stories submitted by other writers are here Advent Ghosts 2019: The Stories.

Years ago, I was inspired to attempt writing a 100-word Christmas story by Loren Eaton of the I Saw Lightning Fall blog. I tend toward long stories, so a 100-word story seemed like something I might not be able to do. I began typing, finished the story, and had exactly 100-words. I was surprised I did it first try. (Read it here. Click 100-word Christmas Stories to see all of them. Some are better than others, but they were all fun to write.) Now, every year, I write a 100-word Christmas story. It’s always fun.

What Makes a Compelling Character?

Glory is compelling. I ponder why.

Glory is a RainWing dragon in the Wings of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland and the point-of-view character in The Hidden Kingdom (Wings of Fire Book 3).

Spoiler Alert.

The following contains spoilers for the Wings of Fire series.

Glory’s egg was a substitute for the SkyWing egg that was destroyed when the eggs to fulfill the Dragonet Prophecy were collected. Because of that, the adult caregivers didn’t consider her to be a true part of the Prophecy. And being a RainWing, they considered her to be a lazy, weak, fruit eater, which was the stereotype for RainWings.

The caregivers treated her as inferior, which caused her to grow up bitter and with a bad attitude that hid her sadness. She almost always expressed herself with biting sarcasm. However, she was smart, remembered what she read, and even though she wasn’t as good at fighting as some of the others, she learned to fight and was willing and able to fight when needed.

Even though the caregivers treated her badly, her fellow Dragonets of Prophecy always treated her as one of them. She might have been in a constant state of irritation and annoyance, but she was loyal and true to the other dragonets because they were her family and despite her cynical opinion of her place among the Dragonets of Prophecy, she protected them at any cost.

When she finally meets other RainWings, she learns they act like the stereotype she had been accused of being. The RainWings were not what she had hoped for. She began to despise her people. But she learned the truth about what it meant to be a RainWing and eventually becomes proud of them and of herself for being one of them.

But she has a character change arc journey first.

She tended to be a loner and always wanted to do things for herself with no help because she had to prove she was more than what the stereotype said she was. This caused her many problems. But when she learned her people were threatened, she was willing to do anything to protect them. Initially she tried to do it alone. Her upbringing had made her different from other RainWings. When the NightWings captured her and considered her not to be a threat because she was a RainWing, she thinks, “They’ve never met a RainWing like me.” Sure enough, they end up regretting underestimating her. Still, her attempts to do it all alone did not go well. Ultimately she learned the lesson that she needed others and she embraced the help given to her by others.

Across the first four books of the Wings of Fire series — The Dragonet Prophecy (Wings of Fire Book 1), The Lost Heir (Wings of Fire Book 2), The Hidden Kingdom (Wings of Fire Book 3), and The Dark Secret (Wings of Fire Book 4) — she goes from a despised and neglected replacement dragonet who everyone thinks will amount to nothing to being the respected and feared Queen Glory of the RainWings and NightWings.

And that is the reason Glory is compelling. She was broken, damaged, and downtrodden, yet her experiences, determination, and personality, with the help of her friends and her people, enable her to overcome her personal problems and to ultimately prove she had been great all along.

Glory is a lesson in how to write a compelling character.

Glory surrounded by Jambu, Mangrove, Tamarin, and Kinkajou, with Sunny and Tsunami watching, after Glory becomes Queen of the RainWings. Kinkajou says, "You did it, Glory."  Glory responds, "Not by myself. I needed all of you to make it happen."
Glory Learned her Lesson
Image from Wings of Fire Graphic Novel #3: The Hidden Kingdom
I highly recommend the Wings of Fire books, audiobooks, and graphic novels.

Emotional Change Arcs

As I work through this story of two co-protagonists learning about each other, my challenge has become weaving the emotions of the characters. They each have moments of fear and moments of cheer. Each meeting brings one emotion or the other. Highs and lows intertwine until a moment of crisis when their relationship almost fails. From this near failure comes new understanding, and a new way of see each other. I’m feeling my way to that critical moment. It’s hard work that requires many experiments to find the right words.