Writer’s Lair

by Richard Perkins

Welcome to the Writer’s Lair! First I should warn you that I read an awful lot of science fiction and fantasy novels. While I was living in Australia I decided to try writing one. The world of the Doormakers has taken on a life of its own. I recently took a break from writing Devon’s story in the Doormakers’ Fall series to write Voices of the Deep. It’s a short story set in an earlier period of the history of the Fertile Plains. And now introducing a brand new story in the Doormakers’ world: The Renegade’s Door. This is the novel I drafted during the month of November for National Novel Writing Month. Check out the series to read the ill-fated love story of Devon’s mother and father!

Please read through the excerpts at your leisure. You can make comments about the story, plot, characters, pretty much anything. I promise to read them and I may even respond! One day I hope to post some podcast recordings too.

I also started writing Restaurant Reviews for the interesting eateries we frequented while I was living in Australia. If you find yourself in Oz looking for a decent place to nosh in Melbourne, have a go at one of these beauties. Enjoy!

Manuscript Revision – Step 4

by Richard Perkins

typewriterWell, it took much longer than I’d hoped. But I’m finally finished with the red-lines on my manuscript. I’ve also settled on a working title! The second novel in the Renegade’s Legacy series is called – (drum roll please) – The Guardian’s Hand!

I’ve even thought of a working title for the concluding volume of the trilogy, but you’ll have to wait for that. (I haven’t even started writing the final story yet, though I do have some of it outlined already.)

That means I’m hip deep in the fourth and final step of my modified one-pass manuscript revision process. Time for another blog post. This is the type-in step, where I transcribe all my re-writes, cross-outs, new pages, and often indecipherable scribbles from red ink into usable electronic format. You’d think this would go pretty quickly, wouldn’t you?

Sadly, no. I have red ink on pretty much every page of the manuscript. All two hundred sixty seven pages. Skipping this step is the reason many authors have moved to electronic revision instead of hard copy. Sadly, I can’t quite do major reworks in soft copy yet. Maybe some day I’ll move into the current century. Until then, I’ve got new writing between the lines and new writing in the margins. There’s new writing on the back of many pages, and sometimes even whole new pages inserted to accommodate, you guessed it, new writing.

Let’s just say the manuscript is bloody, poor thing. Author Holly Lisle (from whom I borrowed nearly all of my modified one-pass revision method) separates her manuscript into three piles: unedited pages, pages with markups on them, and clean pages that don’t require revision. My answer to that is: wow, an entire first draft page that doesn’t require revision? I’ve got a long way to go before I reach that caliber.

I’m about half way through the write-in step and horribly behind schedule. I apologize to my volunteer alpha-readers, but there are miles to go before I sleep, as they say. Miles and several days of type-in. Then I can finally get the manuscript into their eager hands so people with fresh eyes can tear it apart.

Trust me; there’s gonna’ be a lot of tearing on this one. Possibly even some swearing. I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

Cheers!

Manuscript Revision – Step 3

by Richard Perkins

Well, you’ve put it off long enough. You’ve set your manuscript aside, let it collect some dust, forgotten most of the details, and read it with fresh and critical eyes. You’ve scratched down your themes, plot summaries, and character arcs in your little notebook. Now it’s time to wade through your draft manuscript.

It’s never gets any easier, no matter how well you prepare. Author Holly Lisle calls this step the slog with good reason.  I can’t describe the process any better than she does, so I won’t try. You just have to work your way through the writing, scene by scene. You have to give up your attachment to your own words, slash anything that doesn’t advance your theme or develop your characters, and tighten up the prose everywhere else. It’s exhausting, and I’m not very good at it. It’s easy to lose steam, especially if the project needs a lot of work.

Case in point: I started my red-lines for Eliza’s Story on September 6. I chose a target completion date and calculated how many pages I’d need to revise each day to reach it. I stayed on plan for exactly… wait for it… 4 days. Yep. You read it here… 4 days before I was sure that the story was crap and would never amount to anything.

Evidently, this is pretty common for unpublished authors. Published authors aren’t immune either. Knowing that doesn’t make the process any easier though. I did push through the wall eventually, and regained some lost ground in the last few days. Sadly, I still have a long road to travel and only a few days before visiting family brings my progress to a screeching halt again. The chart below shows the whole sorry tale.

JulNoRedlines

Will I finish red-lines before the weekend? Will I get revised copies out to my eager beta-readers? (At least, I hope they’re still eager…) That’s the plan. Well… plan is a strong word. Let’s just say that’s the strategy, and leave it at that. Wish me luck!

PS – I’ve only had one vote so far on my Thunderdome style title combat. Unfortunately, I just discovered that the leading title contender is already in use (by an erotic fantasy of the sword and sorcery variety, no  less). So Guardian’s Path has been disqualified and Healer’s Touch has been booed out of the arena. It’s back to the title well for me I’m afraid.

Manuscript Revision – Step 2

by Richard Perkins

writerI finished the critical reading step of my revisions a few days ago. Now it’s time to move on to step 2. Author Holly Lisle calls this step Discovery, in her one pass process, and I think that’s as good a name as any.

In a nutshell, this is where you remind yourself why you wrote the book in the first place. What’s it all about? You take out your notebook and write down the theme you were trying to capture in one concise sentences (15 words or less). If you have any sub-themes, you jot them down as well. You create a micro-summary for the entire book (25 words or less). This might be the way you’d describe the book to a new acquaintance at a dinner party, or a sound-byte in your elevator pitch. Then you describe your main character’s journey in a single sentence: what they do, why they do it; how it changes them, and why readers should care. I have a couple of major supporting characters in this novel that could use the same treatment as well, so I’ll have to generate at least 3 of these character arcs. Finally, you write a paragraph describing the story (250 words or less). Think of this as the rear jacket blurb that shoppers at the bookstore will read when deciding whether or not to buy your book.

If all this sounds like a lot of work to you, you’re right. It is. This method really forced me to think about my first novel in unfamiliar ways: the ways an editor, publisher, or reader might. Talk about a mind-bending experience. I think aspiring authors need to think about their work from those perspectives if they’re going to have any hope of getting published.

You might wonder why you should bother with all this discovery activity. Why not just get right into the editing and get it out of the way? You discover in order to organize your efforts. Writing, like most creative enterprises, is a somewhat chaotic and anarchic process. Editing is not. Readers need scenes that progress understandably, connect to each other, and mesh together to bring the story to life. They don’t have access to all the background inside the writer’s head: just the words we put on the page. Once you start the meat of the revision process you’ll be scrutinizing each scene to find out if it suits your theme and sub-themes, if it advances the plot and the development of the characters, if it’s important, and if it’s vitally connected to the rest of the story. Before you dive in, it’s helpful to lay the groundwork for your success, to create a cheat-sheet that you’ll refer to as you’re revising.

Some authors do this work as preparation before they start to write the novel. I think Holly Lisle is one of them. If you’re that kind of writer, then this step will largely be a job of transferring and refining your pre-novel notes. If you’re not, then you’ve got a bit of discovery work ahead of you before you jump into revision. Give it a try. It’s worth it.