I’m participating in the Clarion West Write-a-thon again this year. If you wish to contribute to Clarion West by sponsoring me, go to my event page and select the Donate Now button.
Most of my effort during this write-a-thon is editing my Utopia Origins anthology — a collection of five stories that tell the tales of a few of the courageous heroes, both human and dragon, who challenged their societies’ beliefs and in so doing changed the world.
For one of my editing steps, I examined dialogue. I wrote a macro in MS Word that extracts dialogue into a compilation that removes the dialogue from context. This gave me distance that helped me refine the words. The task was tedious, but I definitely improved the content.
Now I’m doing another read-through. While doing that, I’m collecting a list of characters and glossary terms for an appendix at the end of the book.
As I write and edit, I read aloud because I want my words to flow with sounds and cadence. Also, it’s fun to hear what I’ve written and helps me become immersed in the words. Nevertheless, I also find that editing silently has its uses.
The issue is I get lost in the sounds of my words, which interferes with seeing ways to make the words better. Reading silently helps me be more aloof. I make the improvements, and then read the results aloud to ensure the words are still beautiful.
That might sound odd, but it works for me.
I’ve been doing a lot of this style of editing, sending out more submissions, and preparing an anthology for publication.
After sending out a couple of stories for possible publication with short fiction magazines, I turned my attention to one of the stories in the anthology I’m preparing for publication. The story is novella sized and a call for novellas had come up.
I made multiple edit passes looking for anywhere I could enhance the story. There is always something that can be changed, and every reader has their own suggestions for changes. Whether those changes improve the story is often a matter of opinion. However, I do believe I improved the story. Moreover, the concentrated effort enhanced my writing and editing skills. I look forward to applying those enhanced skills on editing my anthology, and on the other stories I have in progress.
Work toward publishing is continuing. Corrections suggested by one reader have been applied. Suggestions from other readers are expected. I’m working through the punch list of items I need to do in preparation for publishing.
Two short stories are ready to send out at the beginning of April and a novella is ready for a May submission window.
Things are happening, but there is still much to do. I wish I could make these things happen faster, but I’m simply not super human enough to be faster.
So much work to do, but I’m making progress on preparing to publish. Many steps are required, such as writing book blurb, creating the book’s front and back matter, formatting ebook and print book interiors, record the audiobook, creating covers, and more. I studied these aspects of publishing for years, but now I’m digging into the details and actually doing the tasks. I look forward to accomplishing something.
My anthology The Dragon Universe: Utopia Origins has been through multiple edits (including one I’m doing right now where I’m removing a few scene breaks that are unnecessary). After a couple more beta readers review it, I’ll call it finished. The next step is to share it with the world. That process will be my next great adventure.
Character change arcs are a mainstay of stories. All characters have a change arc be it positive, flat, or negative. Plotting those arcs is a significant part of my process. However, I never thought about reader change arcs.
Stories can teach readers and change their opinions about local and global issues, but I’m not talking about that type of change. What I’ve become aware of is leading a reader through a change regarding their opinion about a character in a story. Proficient writers may be aware of this. My recent reading experience brought it to my attention.
My enlightenment began with The Dangerous Gift (Wings of Fire Book 14) by Tui T. Sutherland. The point-of-view character is Snowfall, Queen of the IceWings. Snowfall is rude, cold, distrustful, and simply mean. I never liked her. When I heard she was the POV character for book 14, my reaction was why? Snowfall has a character change arc in the story that redeemed her in my eyes. She is now one of my favorite dragons. Sutherland had led me through my own change arc that had changed my opinion about Snowfall.
With Snowfall, the character’s change arc is what led me through my change arc. However, even for a character with a flat change arc, the reader can be led from disliking the character to loving the character. This was the event that led me to realize I was being changed by the writer’s words.
In the Menagerie series — The Menagerie, Dragon on Trial, and Krakens and Lies — by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari Sutherland, there is a secondary character, a griffin named Nira, who has six griffin cubs who have escaped from the menagerie. Nira is indifferent while her mate Riff worries manically and is losing feathers due to his distress. Her attitude triggered me and I immediately disliked her.
By the end of the series, I had learned the truth about Nira. She wasn’t indifferent. She had faith in her cubs and that they would be fine. She was simply enjoying the time off from parenting. Apparently, Riff didn’t contribute anywhere near enough to the work of parenting the cubs. Nira was exhausted. She was happy when all of her cubs were returned to her. And, the menagerie staff had a word with Riff. He began doing his part in parenting the cubs, which he quickly learned was hard work. Also, during the course of the series, Nira helped the menagerie staff in dealing with problems with a local, which also exposed more of Nira’s likeable personality. By the end of the trilogy, I loved Nira. Sutherland and Sutherland had led me through my own change arc that had changed my opinion about Nira.
Now, when I write a story, I’m thinking about the reader change arc I’m creating.
(It wasn’t until later that it occurred to me that Tui T. Sutherland was involved with both of these epiphany-generating stories.)
I finished a draft of my dystopian world story’s first act. As I wrote the last line, the story felt complete. It’s not — there’s a lot more to the story — but the first act made itself its own story with an ending that brought me catharsis.
The first act explores the main character’s normal world. From the beginning, she has the item that will change her world at plot point one at the end of the first act and thus toss her into the actual story in the second and third acts. The midpoint revealed the inciting event as a flashback. It made a complete story arc.
As I wrote the last line, I had a flush of excitement. I had created a short story. I immediately decided it needed to go out on submission. If it doesn’t find a home, I still have the rest of the story to tell. If it does, I’ll still finish the story and publish it later, probably as a novella.
To that end, I edited the story to the best of my ability and then sent it to beta readers for their input. I look forward to submitting it. I currently have a short story making submission rounds. Maybe they’ll both be picked up.
I’m making progress on my dystopian world story, but that progress is slow and difficult. The world is based on what some people want our world to be like. The extreme despair of that world makes it depressing to write. I cried writing the last line of the first chapter.
Figuring out this story has been more difficult than any story I’ve written. The outline is less complete than any of my previous outlines. There’s much yet to be understood about the characters and their world. However, things are coming together and the holes in the outline are slowly filling in.
Now is not the time for emotions. Stay focused. Stay vigilant. Danger lurks. Save the crying for when it’s done. Then, rejoice.
I’m waiting on a review of my anthology. I finished a short story that is out on submission. Now I’m designing a new story that takes place on a dystopian world.
The society of that world is the antagonist confronting our hero. As I create the story, I’ll look for specific characters to personify that society, which is based on policy objectives of certain extremists active in our real world.
The story is challenging, but it’s an excellent opportunity to practice the writing craft skill of worldbuilding.