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Writing Milestones

Exeter Milestone

The first of many.

This week I reached two writing milestones: I submitted my first fantasy short story, The River Lords, for publication and I began revising the first draft of my first novel, Shadow of the Black City. Each of these milestones represents something different.

The River Lords represents completing a project and putting it out there and, most importantly to me, moving on to the next thing.

The next thing is revising the first draft of Shadow. I’m about 10-15% into revisions and the process is confirming what I suspected — This revision will be more rewrite than revision. I’m okay with that. The important thing was for me to get the story down in all its rambling, hackneyed glory.

The original story arc holds true, it just needs pruning. I foresee combining characters to simplify the story, tightening the original conflict and changing the age and circumstances of the main character — so far. I’m sure there will be more, but that’s cool. I’ve explored the subject of writing and first drafts enough to go into this with my eyes open. Truth be told, I’m excited to refine this work.

As one who loves to read about how people approach the various parts of the writing process, I’ve been around the web and bought books. I read Natalie Whipple’s blog post today regarding writing a first draft and thought it may have best captured the most essential nugget of any part of the process –Write how YOU write.

Ultimately, the process is about me sitting at the keyboard and working through however many iterations of my novel until I like the story I’m telling. Yeah, it’s simple to say, but you’d be surprised how many people have a hard time doing it.

The Learning Continues

Lords River Falls not to be confused with my short story, The River Lords

Lords River Falls not to be confused with my short story, The River Lords

Earlier today, I posted another snippet from The River Lords, a short story I’ve been working on for several weeks. The metamorphosis of this story has been fascinating–and educational. About a week ago I thought I had a draft I was ready to submit for publication, but something nagged at me. I wasn’t all that pleased with the ending and I wasn’t sure that the ending made sense. I felt this way mostly because I had been immersed in all the changes without taking time in between each version and had become too close to the story. I had my wife and a friend with editing experience take a look. Turns out, it wasn’t as bad as I had feared, but there were things that could be done — like hacking off 2000 words from the beginning. All previous River Lords excerpts that I’ve posted on this blog are no longer in the story.

This story has gone from 10k words to under 5k to under 3k — all for the better. The story is more interesting, doesn’t try to explain everything, and has a cohesive flavor. I feel like editing and revising this short story has given me some valuable insights as I prepare to edit and revise the first draft of Shadow of the Black City. The things I take away from this experience are:

  1. There is no such thing as writing too much, so long as you are willing to discard it.
  2. You can chop way more from your story than you think and still have it make sense.
  3. It’s always good to get a third party or twelve to look at your work just to make sure you are writing what you think you are writing.
  4. If you think you are starting your short story close to the end of the story, look again, you probably aren’t.

To some who read this post, these insights may be nothing new, but for fairly new writers like me, maybe it will be of use. I’m a writer who, even though I read as much as I can on the process and the craft, am doomed to find out many things for myself, the hard way. But also the fun way–through writing.

WIP – The River Lords

I’ve been trimming The River Lords yet again, beginning the story still closer to the end. I’m liking what I’m seeing.

Back on the boat, I coaxed dried grass and twigs to fire in a bronze pan that had survived the Yan Gorge. I spitted the rabbits and placed them over the flames, turning them every so often. I collected the leavings in a shallow pan for broth.

When I offered the entrails to Krhaw Nohk, she hopped backwards and screeched in obvious disgust. I threw the innards into the water; the surface churned with feasting bloodfish. Krhaw Nohk seemed not to notice, so transfixed was her gaze on the cooking rabbits. Apparently roasted meat appealed more to the bird than cold guts.

Krhaw Nohk stepped from foot to foot in anticipation of the meat and broth I set before her. She glanced at me and then began to eat, tearing at the meat with her beak. I wolfed down bites too hot to enjoy. We ate in silence as the evening settled humid and heavy on the marshes.

Entry in Nathan Bransford's "The 3rd Sort-of-Annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge"

Mr. Bransford’s contest and all the entries can be seen here.

Here’s my entry:

I rode from the ruins of Wat Rahm on a collection of flotsam amid the swift waters of the flooded Yan River. The corpses of my brothers and sisters, the Jao Naam, bobbed and swirled past with a languor not of the waking world. Amchaara, radiant and horrible, had driven her spectral host like a battering ram, breaking our sluices and weirs and dams. Her wrath had loosed the river—and the magic therein.


Short Story WIP progress

I finished a second revision (rewrite is more accurate) of The River Lords last night. I’m pleased with the effort. I went from 10k+ to under half that at 4848 words. I’ll give it the once over to cut a little more fat and tighten up story elements. After that, I’ll begin to submit it. We’ll see how it goes.

This story has been a great exercise for me for three reasons:

  1. I had to home in on the crux of the first draft and trim away much of it;
  2. I changed the whole flavor of the story, discarding the original arc; and
  3. I tend towards wordiness, so I focused on writing lean and truthful.

It’s fun to see the fruits of this exercise. Whether it gets accepted or not is another story. At the very least, I’m a better writer for it.

Once the final revisions are done, I’ll probably do a podcast of it just for fun. I’ll post it here.